Rafa Marquez has been included in Mexico’s preliminary squad for this summer’s World Cup in Russia, putting him on course to take part in the tournament for a fifth time.
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio added Marquez’s name to the 28-man list on Monday despite the 39-year-old having been sanctioned last August by the U.S. Treasury for alleged ties to a drug-trafficking organization.
Marquez temporarily stopped playing for his club side, Atlas, after the allegations and hasn’t featured for Mexico since the 2017 Confederations Cup, but he has maintained his innocence and been a regular for Atlas in 2018.
Marquez — who is set to retire after the World Cup — could become only the third man in history to feature at five tournaments and could be the first to captain a side in at least one game in five editions.
“We believe there is room for Rafael to help,” Osorio said. “There is a mental part, in which experience and leadership allows playing in tough moments of world-class matches, and doing it with the same ease, leadership and criteria that only Rafa could.”
There was little else in the way of major surprises from Osorio, although Chivas midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro was left out and there was no place for fellow midfielder Jose Juan “Gallito” Vazquez, who has been playing well at Santos Laguna.
Also omitted was Monterrey midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez, the former United States youth international who switched his allegiance to Mexico last year.
Mexico does have some injury concerns heading into World Cup camp, however, with defender Diego Reyes’ undisclosed injury while Nestor Araujo has yet to play following knee surgery. There are some unknowns about the fitness of the LA Galaxy’s Giovani dos Santos and Jonathan dos Santos, and Real Betis’ Andres Guardado, who is set to undergo surgery on an unspecified injury in Mexico this week.
“I am not a medical specialist, but if the World Cup began tomorrow those five could not be in it,” said Osorio, adding that Erick Gutierrez could fill in for Guardado if needed.
Mexico’s squad will trickle into camp starting Monday depending on when the players’ different seasons finish and how long each individual will be given a break.
El Tri, which opens its World Cup campaign against defending champion Germany on June 17, will prepare for the matchup by facing Wales in Los Angeles on May 28, Scotland in Mexico City on June 2 and Denmark in Copenhagen on June 9.
Mexico’s 28-player squad
Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Standard Liege), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul)
Defenders: Diego Reyes (FC Porto), Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt), Hector Moreno (Real Sociedad), Oswaldo Alanis (Getafe), Nestor Araujo (Santos Laguna), Miguel Layun (Sevilla), Jesus Gallardo (Pumas), Hugo Ayala (Tigres), Edson Alvarez (America)
Midfielders: Hector Herrera (Porto), Andres Guardado (Real Betis), Rafa Marquez (Atlas), Jonathan dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt), Jesus Molina (Monterrey), Erick Gutierrez (Pachuca), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
Forwards: Javier Aquino (Tigres), Jesus “Tecatito” Corona (Porto), Raul Jimenez (Benfica), Oribe Peralta (Club America), Javier Hernandez (West Ham United), Carlos Vela (LAFC), Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven), Jurgen Damm (Tigres)