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Mexico's Sanchez is under the gun at Copa America
by Paul Kennedy, June 27th, 2007 8:49AM

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TAGS:  brazil, copa america, gold cup, mexico

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Gold Cup runner-up Mexico will be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire when it opens Group B play on Wednesday in Puerto Ordaz. After losing yet again to the United States, Mexico must face defending champion Brazil to open the Copa America (TV: Univision, Gol TV-English, live, 8:30 pm ET).

Mexico will be without three of its European-based stars -- Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio and Pavel Pardo -- and Jared Borgetti and Andres Guardado will probably be unavailable for the Brazil game after being injured in the Gold Cup final.

To make matters worse, Coach Hugo Sanchez is under intense criticism from the press in both Mexico and the United States. La Jornada said the Tri's loss in the final was a personal failure for the controversial Sanchez, who lobbied long and hard for the job and set as one of the team's goals to win the Gold Cup. The Los Angeles-based La Opinion referred the national team's situation after the loss in Chicago as "grave."

Sanchez had been a long-time critic of Argentine Ricardo Lavolpe, who had beaten him out for Mexico's coaching job in the 2003-06 cycle, and the Mexican press painted the national team as being divided into two camps: "Lavolpistas" (those faithful to Lavolpe) and "Huguistas" (those who support Sanchez).

Lavolpe -- who returned to Argentina, where he is coaching at Velez Sarsfield after bombing at Boca Juniors -- kept a low profile until after Sunday's game.

"He always said he understood the Mexican soccer environment," Lavolpe said of his successor, Sanchez. "Now he has to turn a blind eye, to be intelligent and work positively with his team."

If Mexico doesn't reach the semifinals -- Sanchez's other stated goal for 2007 -- he could quickly be gone as national team coach but he pleaded for patience.

"As a player, the same thing happened to me, I needed time to triumph in Europe and now it's the same, be patient," the former Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid star told reporters Tuesday. "If you have put up with others who aren't Mexican and who, in addition, have treated you badly, then I deserve a bit more."

It was Sanchez's way to get a dig in at the Argentine Lavolpe.

In Wednesday's Group B opener in Puerto Ordaz, Chile meets Ecuador.

PROBABLE LINEUPS:
Mexico -- Sanchez, Castro, Marquez, Magallon, Morales, Torrado, Correa, Lozano, Blanco, Castillo, Bautista.
Brazil -- Helton, Maicon, Alex, Juan, Gilberto, Minero, Gilberto Silva, Elano, Diego, Robinho, Vagner Love.

Ecuador -- Elizaga, de la Cruz, Hurtado, Espinoza, Palacio, Castillo, Urrutia, Mendez, Valencia, Benitez, Tenorio.
Chile -- Bravo, Riffo, Contreras, Vargas, Fierro, Sanhueza, Melendez, Gonzalez, Valdivia, Fernandez, Suazo.


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