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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

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 By Tom Marshall

'Tuca' Ferretti and Rafa Marquez stay low-key ahead of U.S. vs. Mexico

PASADENA, Calif. -- Respectful of the opposition and confident that the team can go out and get the job done. That's the message from the Mexico camp ahead of Saturday's CONCACAF Cup against the United States.

While the tone from El Tri's camp is usually one that states the team simply has to defeat its archrival, on Friday interim coach Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti sought to take that heat out of a rivalry that has been tempestuous in the past.

"There is no obligation to win," stated Ferretti in his pregame news conference. "[We're not even] obligated to put on shoes."

The line from Ferretti who, in four days, will end his stint as Mexico coach, drew laughs from the packed room of journalists in the Rose Bowl. It also seemed to sum up the attitude with which El Tri is approaching the game.

There has been very little morbo -- smack talk -- from the Mexico side, almost as if it is purposely focused on not giving the United States one single little bit of extra motivation. The U.S., on the other hand, has been a little more forthcoming in stoking the fires of the rivalry.

"[The U.S.] are going to win over thousands of Mexican fans to their side, because of the 90,000 fans that go to the Rose Bowl, even if only maybe 60,000 wear the green jersey, a lot of them have another jersey underneath and that's the American jersey," stated U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann this week.

When Rafa Marquez was goaded into explaining why Mexico has struggled to overcome the United States of late -- El Tri hasn't won in six matches and has lost 13 of the 23 games against the U.S. since 2000 -- the captain simply pointed out that Saturday's opposition is a good team deserving respect.

"Brazil and Argentina also struggle against the United States; it is a team that has grown a lot and [plays] at a high level," stated Marquez, who was also at the news conference.

Ricardo Ferretti, left, and Rafa Marquez, right, faced the media on Friday.

Marquez's very presence, both in speaking to the press, but also at training in the Rose Bowl on Friday, was a huge boost for Mexico. The 36-year-old was set to miss the game with a groin injury picked up for club side Hellas Verona on Sept. 20, but has made a rapid recovery to be involved against the Stars and Stripes.

"If I wasn't 100 percent, I wouldn't be here," the former Barcelona defender said bluntly, adding that he isn't thinking of retiring from international soccer. "Tomorrow I will give 100 percent to add my bit so we achieve the result."

Ferretti has had only two games to prepare for Saturday's showdown, the winner of which will earn a spot at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, but has been "surprised" by the quality of Mexico's players.

"As human beings and players, they are the best of the best," said Ferretti, adding that the team is 100 percent united in support of goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, who has remained back in Mexico due to a family problem.

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According to reports from ESPN's John Sutcliffe, Mexico's XI will be: Moises Munoz, Paul Aguilar, Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, Marquez, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado, Raul Jimenez, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Oribe Peralta.

Ferretti, however, was his usual jovial self when asked if he was prepared to confirm that those players will start and that it will be a 4-3-3 formation.

"No," he said, with a wide smile. "If you knew I wouldn't answer, why did you ask?"

Tomorrow's match will provide all the answers and define whether Ferretti's briefest of spells in charge will be remembered positively, or as another frustrated attempt to turn the tables on the United States.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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