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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Mexico's road to the finals
The Mexican squad in August 2001
Aguirre has broken up the squad of August 2001
BBC Sport Online assesses Mexico's rocky road to the World Cup finals.

Mexico's route to the 2002 World Cup finals has been a turbulent one.

The central American side, who qualified as the second-placed team in the Concacaf group, have seen coaches come and go in their 16 months of qualifying.

Manuel Lapuente started the campaign off but was replaced almost immediately by Enrique Meza, who in turn was axed as Mexico's qualification chances slipped away.

Qualifying campaign
Semi-final round
W 1-0 Panama (a)
L 0-1 Trin & Tob (a)
W 2-0 Canada (h)
W 7-1 Panama (h)
W 7-0 Trin & Tob (h)
D 0-0 Canada (a)
Final round
L 2-0 USA (a)
W 4-0 Jamaica (h)
D 1-1 Trin & Tob (a)
L 1-2 Costa Rica (h)
L 1-3 Honduras (a)
W 1-0 USA (h)
W 2-1 Jamaica (a)
W 3-0 Trin & Tob (h)
D 0-0 Costa Rica (a)
W 3-0 Honduras (h)

In the end, Javier Aguirre acted as the country's saviour-in-chief, taking over and sealing four wins and a draw in the final five matches to earn a late World Cup berth.

The former international, who represented his country in the 1986 finals, turned the Mexican side into a more physical outfit, strong on the ball and harsh in the tackle.

And that dramatic overhaul came courtesy of 18 new players in the squad.

Aguierre has warned that he will wield the axe more vehemently as the finals near.

"When I got to the national team I found tired players, without desire," the 42-year-old said.

"And Mexico did not play good football during the qualification process."

With only five matches remaining, Mexico were lagging behind the USA and Costa Rica, their main rivals for qualification, with just four points.

Their late surge saw them move ahead of the States but a record of only five goals away from home, compared to 27 in the Azteca, remains a concern.

Despite this apparent travel sickness, Aguirre believes his side could put it right in time for June.

Javier Aguirre shouts instructions from the touchline
Aguirre has turned around Mexico's fortunes

After being drawn in Group G with Italy, Croatia and Ecuador, he insisted: "It appears to me that it's a group which could produce surprises.

"Anything is possible with the Croatians and we have to remember they reached the semi-finals in France.

"Ecuador did very well in the qualifiers and beat Brazil, while Italy are always challengers for the title."

Aguirre insists Mexico needs eight new faces to shape the ultimate squad in time for June.

And by leaving out many established stars for the Concacaf Gold Cup, he has already tested the mettle of the country's younger stars.

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GROUP G
  P GD PTS
MEXICO 3 +2 7
ITALY 3 +1 4
CROATIA 3 -1 3
ECUADOR 3 -2 3

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