Football: Mexico icon Blanco to play in tribute game

Football: Mexico icon Blanco to play in tribute game

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's iconic forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco will suit up one last time for his national squad Wednesday in a World Cup warm-up against Israel doubling as a tribute game.

Mexico manager Miguel Herrera said Monday that the 41-year-old veteran, who played in three World Cups, would start the first 15-20 minutes of the game.

"We want people to see him for a bit on the pitch," Herrera told reporters, saying Blanco had a certain "chemistry with the people."

Blanco trained Monday at Mexico City's 105,000-capacity Azteca stadium with the 23 Mexican players heading to the World Cup in Brazil in three weeks.

A fan favorite in Mexico on par with legendary striker Hugo Sanchez, Blanco has played for Mexico City's Club America as well as Spain's Valladolid and US professional soccer's Chicago Fire.

Defying his age and putting off retirement, he recently signed with Mexican first division team Puebla after a stint in the second division.

Blanco, who played in the 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cups, told reporters he was grateful for the chance to wear Mexico's green jersey one more time.

"With what I have done with the national team, I leave happy. I always gave it my best effort," said the man who won the 1999 Confederations Cup and two Gold Cups, the North and Central American football tournament.

Herrera said Blanco would pair up with Club America's new forward Oribe Peralta in front against Israel, meaning Manchester United striker Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez will be on the bench.

After the game against Israel, Mexico will embark on a US tour for friendlies against Ecuador, Bosnia and Portugal before traveling to Brazil.

Mexico are in Group A at the World Cup finals. Their first game will be against Cameroon on June 13 followed by a June 17 clash against hosts Brazil and a June 23 game against Croatia.

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