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Apr 4, 2006

Mexico striker Blanco baffled by World Cup snub

MEXICO CITY, April 4 (Reuters) - Mexico forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco is baffled by coach Ricardo La Volpe's decision not to take him to the World Cup.

The volatile forward has been left out of the provisional 26-man squad from which La Volpe will select his final 23 for the finals in Germany, starting on June 9.

'La Volpe can't tell me that I don't fit into his system if I have played under the command of umpteen coaches and have adapted to all of their systems,' Blanco told reporters late on Monday.

'So, I don't think it's so difficult to adapt to Ricardo's (system). As far as I'm concerned, there's no valid argument for my not being in the national team.'

Blanco, who plays for Mexico City club America, is as famous for his volatile temper as his precocious talent. At the 1998 and 2002 tournaments he became famous for bunny-hopping past defenders with the ball between his ankles.

Now 33, Blanco is considered by many fans as the only Mexican player capable of producing the unpredictable in attack.

Blanco and La Volpe were involved in a series of clashes when they were on the opposite sides in club games before the gruff former Argentina goalkeeper was appointed coach after the 2002 World Cup.

La Volpe said he had nothing personal against Blanco although he picked him for only a handful of games.

SPARKING BRAWL

In 2004, Blanco was blamed for sparking a brawl on the pitch which led to a crowd riot at the end of a Libertadores Cup tie against Brazil's Sao Caetano. He was loaned out to Veracruz for the rest of the year.

In the first half of last year, Blanco inspired the America team which won Mexico's Clausura championship and was picked for the Confederations Cup.

However, he pulled out of the squad on the eve of the tournament, saying he needed a rest.

Mexico seemed to thrive without him, beating Brazil on their way to a fourth-place finish.

After being left out of the subsequent World Cup qualifier with Costa Rica in August, Blanco said that La Volpe did not have big enough trousers to recall him.

He played in the 2-1 win over Norway in January before injury and a loss of form effectively ended his chances.

Mexico, whose best World Cup performances were quarter-final finishes at the 1970 and 1986 events they hosted, face Iran, Portugal and Angola in Group D.