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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 15 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Aug 19, 2008

Concacaf: Blanco looks to repay Sven's faith

Cuauhtemoc Blanco is hoping to reward the faith shown in him by Sven-Goran Eriksson after being recalled to the Mexico team for their World Cup qualifier against Honduras.

The 35-year-old Blanco is returning to the national team for the first time since the 2007 Copa America, in which Mexico finished third.

'I hope we can do our job well right from the start to earn a place at the World Cup,' said Chicago Fire forward said. 'Securing a positive result and putting in a good performance are the most important things.

'I'm happy to be back. I've been considered by a new coach. The fight for a starting place will be tough so the team will benefit.'

Mexico face Honduras at the Estadio Azteca on Wednesday, their first game in Group Two which also features Canada and Jamaica.

'They have experienced players,' Blanco said of Honduras. 'Some of them play in Europe, but our goal is to win all our games at home.'

Honduras defender Maynor Figueroa, who plays his club football in England with Wigan, does not fear Mexico.

'On the field, it is eleven versus eleven, we are all the same and we have a chance to win it,' he said. 'After 90 minutes we'll know the score.'

In Toronto, Dale Mitchell's Canada face Jamaica, who are trying to get back to the World Cup under Rene Simoes, the coach who led them there in 2002.

However, optimism is high in the Canada camp as the squad is deeper and stronger than it has been in the past.

'That's what is making it difficult for Dale to choose a starting XI,' said veteran goalkeeper Pat Onstad of the Houston Dynamo. 'We've probably got 16 or 17 guys to choose from.'

In Group One, the United States travel to Guatemala with head coach Bob Bradley anxious to get started on the latest stage of the qualification process, which determines which four teams progress to a final round to clinch one of three automatic berths for the World Cup.

The fourth team will face a South American team in a play-off to try and make it to South Africa in 2010.

'We are excited to begin the next phase of qualifying,' Bradley said. 'There are no easy games, and we know Guatemala are a very difficult team to play at home.

'It's important to begin the semi-final round in a positive way, and we are confident that the work we have done in the last 18 months has prepared us for the task.'

They face a Guatemala team that defender Jean Marquez believes is growing stronger all the time as they adjust to coach Ramon Maradiga, who returned to take charge of the team earlier this year having been sacked in 2006.

'I feel we are used to each other and we've learnt what they coach wants in training,' Marquez said. 'We are going in the right direction to play the Americans.'

Group One's other game sees Cuba face Trinidad and Tobago, who will be without Sunderland midfielder Carlos Edwards for personal reasons.

'This round is going to be tough and for us starting away to Cuba will be difficult,' said Joe Public defender Keyeno Thomas.

'I am not saying we can't get the win but it will not be as easy as people think. A World Cup qualifier is a different type of game.'

In Group Three, Rodrigo Kenton takes charge of Costa Rica for the first time as they face El Salvador at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibas.

Kenton has stepped up from managing at youth level after Hernan Medford, and his players are excited by the challenge for playing for a new coach.

'I am enjoying it,' said forward Erick Scott. 'I am sure coach Kenyon will put a good team on the field.'

However, Salvadorian captain Alfredo Pacheco is determined to spoil the party.

'I think El Salvador will finish top in this group,' he said. 'We don't fear Costa Rica or any Caribbean team. But we respect the Ticos because they play well.'

Finally, Haiti and Suriname play in Port-au-Prince.

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