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May 14, 2006

Mexico confirm squad for World Cup finals

MEXICO CITY, May 14 (Reuters) - Mexico axed defender Joel Huiqui and midfielders Israel Lopez and Jaime Lozano when they confirmed their final 23-man World Cup squad on Saturday.

The decision means that 37-year-old defender Claudio Suarez keeps his place and has a chance to play at his third World Cup following his appearances in 1994 and 1998.

'I'm sure everyone wanted the 26 to remain but unfortunately we have to give a list to FIFA and this is the way it has to be,' Mexican Football Federation (FMF) director Guillermo Cantu told a media conference.

Cantu did not say why the three had been chosen.

The trio were in the provisional 26-man squad announced on April 2 and which had been training together since.

Mexico's clubs agreed to release their players early and only the four foreign-based players have been absent from their training camp.

Huiqui, who plays for Cruz Azul, has won eight caps, mainly in friendlies played in the last year.

Lopez, a defensive midfielder who plays for Mexican champions Toluca, made his debut in 2000 and has been in and out of the side since. He also missed out on the 2002 World Cup.

Lozano scored 11 goals in the World Cup qualifiers but has suffered a loss of form this year.

Coach Ricardo La Volpe has made a number of controversial choices for his squad.

The final 23 includes foreign-born Antonio Naelson and Guillermo Franco plus La Volpe's son-in-law Rafael Garcia. On the other hand, there has been no place for Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who many regard as the country's top player at the age of 33.

Mexico, who have never gone beyond the quarter-finals, will play against Portugal, Angola and Iran in Group D at the World Cup in Germany starting on June 9 after surprisingly being chosen as one of the eight seeds.

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

Squad:

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

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

Midfielders: Luis Perez (Monterrey), Pavel Pardo (America), Antonio Naelson (Toluca), Rafael Garcia (Atlas), Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Ramon Morales (Guadalajara/Chivas)

Forwards: Jared Borgetti (Bolton Wanderers), Guillermo Franco (Villarreal), Francisco Fonseca (Cruz Azul), Omar Bravo (Guadalajara/Chivas), Jesus Arellano (Monterrey).