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EDITIONS
World Club Championship Monday, 20 December, 1999, 19:21 GMT
Necaxa: Kings of a small hill
Delgado
Potent: Ecuador international Augustin Delgado (left)
By Latin American football writer Tim Vickery

Mexican football has suffered from being the king of a very small hill.

For decades their dominance of North and Central America went unchallenged, with the result that Mexico found it hard to take the next step up and become a world power.

Necaxa's key men
Coach: Raul Arias
Alex Aguinaga, midfielder from Ecuador
Augustin Delgado, striker
Sergio Vasquez, Uruguayan forward
Carlos Hermosillo, veteran striker
Ignacio Ambriz, international midfielder
German Villa, midfielder, back from Spain
But the growth of the game in the United States has forced Mexico to work harder to retain their position.

Standards have also risen since both Mexican clubs and the national team began participating in South American competitions.

Mexico were one of the shock teams at France 98, where, unthinkably, they came close to eliminating Germany in Europe.

Third place followed a year later in the Copa America. And now Necaxa are keen to keep the momentum going in the World Club Championships.

World Club Championship
For this particular team, it could be their last opportunity to gain wider recognition. Necaxa's is an aging squad. But with their experience they are unlikely to be overawed by playing in Rio's legendary Maracană.

Necaxa stage their home games in Mexico City's enormous Aztec stadium, which they share with America and Atlante. All three clubs are owned by media giants Televisa.

Off the field, Necaxa have been treated as the poor relation of the trio, but they hit back by establishing themselves as Mexico's most successful club of the decade.

Vasquez
Influential Sergio Vasquez may struggle to be fit
One of the main factors behind their fine run is their midfield playmaker.

The podgy, pony-tailed Alex Aguinaga is an unlikely athlete. But his skill, work-rate and cunning have shone so much that he is considered the most valuable of the many foreigners in Mexican football.

Had he been born in Brazil or Argentina, Aguinaga would surely be a bigger name in the world game. As it is, he has carried the hopes of the Ecuador national team for a decade.

He took them to third place in the 1993 Copa America, and was outstanding in the qualifiers for the last World Cup. But the evidence of the 1999 Copa America was not promising.

Almaguer
Sergio Almaguer: Uruguayan force in attack
Struggling for fitness, Aguinaga looked past his best. In the World Club Championships he will be anxious to show that, at 31, he can still perform at the highest level.

Necaxa's most potent attacking weapon over the last year also comes from Ecuador. The giant Augustin Delgado may not be the most elegant of players, but his track record reveals an effective striker.

Competent in the air and on the ground, Delgado is a frequent scorer for club and country. Another attacking option is the Uruguayan Sergio Vasquez, an unexpected success since joining the club three years ago.

Most dangerous running from deep, Vasquez is struggling to regain fitness after picking up an injury in training with the Uruguayan national team.

His lay-off makes the return of Carlos Hermosillo all the more important. The veteran striker, one of Mexico's most popular players, has just rejoined the team after a spell in the United States' Major League.

Hermosillo is one of a number of experienced Mexican internationals in the Necaxa squad.

Coach Raul Arias can call on midfield anchorman Ignacio Ambriz as well as current Mexican national squad members Salvador Cabrera, a utility man, and centre back Sergio Almaguer, who this season has been making a habit of scoring goals as well as stopping them.

Combative midfielder German Villa exemplifies the problems that have faced Mexican football.

After fine performances in France 98 he was signed by Espanol of Spain. But like so many Mexican players he found it difficult to settle, and quickly returned home.

Now in the red and white stripes of Necaxa, he aims to show that Mexican teams are prepared to become a global force.

See also:

20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
20 Dec 99 | World Club Championship
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