Profiles - World Cup Teams - Mexico
Mexico Republic Mexico boasts a football-mad population of nearly 100 million, one of Latin America's richest domestic leagues and has staged two of the best-organised, most memorable World Cups in history.

Yet the national team remains one of the great enigmas of international football.

Although Mexico have taken part at 11 of the 16 World Cups, the 'Tricolor' can boast nothing better than two quarter-final appearances in the two tournaments they have hosted - in 1970 and 1986.

Perhaps this time, Mexico can finally live up to their vast potential.

Recent signs have been encouraging with Mexico twice reaching the final of the Copa America, the South American competition in which they take part as guests, since their first invitation in 1993.

Mexican clubs have also started doing well in the South American Libertadores Cup and Necaxa finished third - ahead of Real Madrid and Manchester United - in the inaugural World Club Championship held in Brazil in 2000.

It was a creditable performance which deserved greater recognition.

Most encouraging of all was Mexico's effort at the last World Cup when only their nerves preventing them from reaching the last eight.

After qualifying from a first round group which contained both the Netherlands and Belgium, Mexico were agonisingly close to beating Germany in the second round.

They led 1-0 but missed chances and poor defending opened the way for the famed German powers of recovery and a 2-1 defeat.

This time around, Mexico appeared to be coming into form at the right time after a traumatic last few months.

Much will depend on striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who was their leading scorer in the qualifying campaign with nine goals despite being out of action for nearly a year with a knee injury.

Blanco's absence from the squad coincided with a disastrous run which included a humiliating 4-0 defeat by England in a friendly, followed by three straight defeats at the Confederations Cup earlier this year.

Back in the World Cup campaign, the Mexicans suffered early defeats against the United States, Honduras and Costa Rica which left them on the brink of elimination.

Their fortunes changed dramatically when coach Enrique Meza was sacked after the defeat by Honduras and replaced by Javier Aguirre, whose antics on the touchline provide a show in themselves.

Mexico beat the United States in Aguirre's first game, then Blanco provided a spectacular return by scoring both goals in the 2-1 win away to Jamaica.

A draw with Costa Rica and a 3-0 win over Honduras, with Blanco scoring two more, sent the Mexicans to South Korea and Japan with two points to spare.

Whatever happens in June, Mexico will not want to settle a knockout tie on penalties. Modern-day football's infamous lottery eliminated the Mexicans in both 1986 and 1994. homepage