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By ESPN Staff

Mexico leave Blanco out of World Cup squad

MEXICO CITY, April 2 (Reuters) - Mexico's gifted but volatile forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco will miss this summer's World Cup finals after being omitted from coach Ricardo La Volpe's provisional 26-man squad on Sunday.

But 37-year-old defender Claudio Suarez, who has won 174 caps, and veteran midfielder Jesus Arellano were surprise inclusions in the list from which La Volpe will choose his final 23 players.

Suarez's appearances under La Volpe have been restricted mainly to friendlies and the 2004 Copa America in Peru, while the 32-year-old Arellano's presence had been in doubt after he played little part in Mexico's qualifying campaign.

Blanco, as famous for his scintilating skill as his unpredictable temperament, is widely viewed as one of Mexico's most creative players ever and speculation about his exclusion had been a long-running saga.

Perhaps best remembered for the outrageous 'bunny-hopping' between defendings with the ball lodged between his ankles, Blanco played in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

However, since pulling out of Mexico's squad on the eve of last year's Confederations Cup saying he needed a rest, La Volpe has picked him only once.

Even before he became coach in 2002 there was speculation about La Volpe's relationship with the 33-year-old Blanco as the pair had frequent clashes when they were on opposite sides in club games.

Blanco was in excellent form in the second half of last year but became involved in a public slanging match with La Volpe, saying the coach did not have the courage to pick him.

But a loss of form and injuries this year weakened his case.

La Volpe has also been criticised in some quarters for his policy of picking naturalised players.

The coach included two naturalised players - striker Guillermo Franco, who was born in Argentina, and Brazilian-born midfielder Antonio Naelson - in the squad.

Naelson, who is fighting to be fit in time after undergoing knee surgery earlier this year, has been a regular under La Volpe while Franco made his debut against Guatemala last October.

Mexico, who have never gone beyond the quarter-finals, were surprisingly chosen as one of the eight seeds for the finals and will play Portugal, Angola and Iran in Group D.

They are seen as potential dark horses after beating Brazil at the Confederations Cup, although their form against European sides under La Volpe has been poor with only two wins in eight outings.

Goalkeepers: Oswaldo Sanchez (Guadalajara/Chivas), Guillermo Ochoa (America), Jesus Corona (UAG/Tecos)

Defenders: Jose Antonio Castro (America), Rafael Marquez (Barcelona, Spain), Mario Mendez (Monterrey), Ricardo Osorio (Cruz Azul), Francisco Rodriguez (Guadalajara/Chivas), Carlos Salcido (Guadalajara/Chivas), Joel Huiqui (Cruz Azul), Claudio Suarez (Chivas USA, U.S.), Andres Guardado (Atlas), Gonzalo Pineda (Guadalajara/Chivas)

Midfielders: Luis Perez (Monterrey), Pavel Pardo (America), Antonio Naelson (Toluca), Rafael Garcia (Atlas), Jaime Lozano (UANL/Tigres), Jesus Arellano (Monterrey), Israel Lopez (Toluca), Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Ramon Morales (Guadalajara/Chivas)

Forwards: Jared Borgetti (Bolton Wanderers, England), Guillermo Franco (Villareal, Spain), Francisco Fonseca (Cruz Azul), Omar Bravo (Guadalajara/Chivas)