Rafael Marquez's five greatest moments as a Mexico international
In front of a pro-United States crowd in Columbus, Ohio, 37-year-old Rafael Marquez reached his quintessential moment with the Mexico national team.
Marquez's eyes looked tired. His movements were one second slower than the rest. His passing grew unpredictable as the game reached its peak -- the point when any team could have walked away with a win. But upon El Tri's only corner kick of the match, Marquez's mind and heart accelerated, leaving him open to score the header that ended the U.S.'s "Dos a cero" run on home soil.
Marquez embodies Mexican football. Even though he's nearing the end of his career, he takes pride in carrying the load of a national team that can finally say it boasts a starting XI replete with Europe-based players.
When Marquez was winning titles at FC Barcelona between 2003 and 2010, he was the only Mexican footballer playing in the world's top leagues. Others began to follow his footsteps after the 2006 World Cup, like Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio, Andres Guardado and Pavel Pardo to name just a few.
Marquez's influence on Mexican football has been of immense importance. And since 2007, he has had a tendency of making his presence felt in the most crucial moments for Mexico.
Here are five games that positively mark the national team career of "El Patron":
With Hugo Sanchez as manager, Mexico traveled to Venezuela to participate in the 2007 Copa America. In that competition, El Tri's roster only included two players who were playing in Europe: Nery Castillo and Marquez.
Marquez's vision and first touch allowed Castillo to score the first goal of the match. Mexico went on to beat Ecuador 2-1, and El Tri finished the tournament in third place.
Marquez's goal at the 2010 World Cup could not have come at a more clutch moment.
Although Mexico had created enough chances to take an early lead, it was the home team, South Africa, who went into half-time with a 1-0 advantage.
Marquez had been clinical with his headers all game, but when his country needed him most, he also had the skill to execute and take his chance with a shot on goal.
It could be said that Mexico's game against Croatia at the 2014 World Cup was one of El Tri's best performances of the past decade.
The 3-1 win was a convincing one, and the player charged with leading Mexico to victory was none other than "El Patron". Marquez rose in the air and connected a header that made Itaipava Arena Pernambuco erupt in joy.
The fact that the former Barcelona man entered the 2014 World Cup after leading Liga MX side Leon to back-to-back league championships made it even more special.
The game in Glendale, Arizona was deadlocked at 1-1 -- although Mexico had played a great first half against Uruguay.
Just when it appeared as though the match would finish in a draw, Marquez made another key appearance inside the box -- similar to five years prior in Johannesburg. His goal helped El Tri to an important 3-1 victory over La Celeste.
The wins against Uruguay and the U.S. are the two most important ones in this young Juan Carlos Osorio era, and Marquez got his name on the scoresheet in both matches.
The "Dos a cero" era is over on U.S. soil, but the sting of the Americans' 2-0 win at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea still remains.
Marquez was there as El Tri's captain, and he got sent off. Fourteen years later, wearing the captain's armband, football granted him the opportunity to score the winning goal in Columbus. The stars aligned in his favor.
Marquez will remain as a Mexico international as long as his heart and mind allow him to continue due to his uncontrollable desire to be a part of a squad that has a very distinct chance to make history on the grandest of stages, the World Cup.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.