Local soccer star Rafa Marquez could become the first player in history to captain a nation at five World Cup tournaments, as long as he is selected for Mexico’s final 23-man squad for Russia 2018.
Marquez, 39, figures in Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio’s provisional 28-player list for the tournament even though he retired from the city’s Atlas team at the end of last month. Osorio said Marquez will provide much-needed experience and leadership to the squad.
The provisional list must be trimmed by five players before the World Cup starts on June 13.
The inclusion of Marquez may be seen in some quarters as controversial after he appeared last year on a U.S. Treasury list of Mexicans with connections to drug trafficking cartels. Marquez, who heads several high-profile charities to assist disadvantaged children, has denied all allegations of money laundering and faces no criminal charges in either Mexico or the United States. However, since his U.S. visa was revoked following the accusations, it is unclear whether he will be able to play in Mexico’s first warm-up game for Russia 2018, scheduled May 28 against Wales in Los Angeles. Mexico’s other two games before the World Cup are against Scotland in Mexico City on June 2 and Denmark in Copenhagen on June 9.
Mexico’s first (Group F) World Cup game is against holders Germany, Sunday, June 17, 10 a.m. in Moscow. They follow up against South Korea, Saturday, June 23, 10 a.m. in Rostov-on-Don and finish the group stage against Sweden, Wednesday, June 27, 11 a.m. in Yekaterinburg.
While most fans in Mexico believe defeating Germany is a long shot, they’re confident El Tri can overcome South Korea and Sweden and advance to the round of 16.
Mexico has only ever advanced as far as the quarter final stage of the World Cup in the two editions it has hosted, in 1970 and 1986. The team has qualified for the round of 16 in the past six tournaments.