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Mexico tune up for CONCACAF defence against All Whites

Mexico get in their last warm-up before the CONCACAF Gold Cup when they host New Zealand in an international friendly on Wednesday.

Mexico coach Jose Manuel ‘El Chepo’ de la Torre will look to the match as a final chance to tinker with his side’s make-up ahead of their Gold Cup opener against El Salvador on Sunday.

Mexico are the most successful nation at the biennial American tournament and the reigning champions, having defeated the United States 5-0 in the 2009 final.

But their lead-up to the 2011 edition has been muted at best, with El Tri managing only 1-1 draws against Venezuela and Ecuador in their past two friendly outings.

Last Saturday’s draw with Ecuador featured the 23-man squad that El Chepo will take into the Gold Cup, with the notable exception of Manchester United starlet Javier Hernandez, who will link up with the squad prior to the El Salvador match.

But New Zealand will still come up against a squad bristling with talent in Denver, including the likes of on-loan Tottenham midfielder Giovani dos Santos, New York Red Bulls stalwart Rafael Marquez and Deportivo La Coruna playmaker Andres Guardado.

That line-up produced plenty of chances against Ecuador but just the one goal, a discrepancy that Mexico will look to address against the All Whites.

Elsewhere, Argentina continues their preparation for hosting the Copa America in July when they take on Nigeria in Abuja.

Argentina coach Sergio Batista will field an under-strength squad against the Super Eagles without the likes of Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Diego Milito and Gonzalo Higuain.

Argentina defeated Nigeria 1-0 in the group stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Only two players from that squad – Nicolas Otamendi and Mario Bolatti – remain for the friendly.

Also on Wednesday, Japan open their Kirin Cup defence against Peru in Yokohama, their first match since defeating Australia to clinch the AFC Asian Cup in January.

The Blue Samurai are still to taste defeat under manager Alberto Zaccheroni, who took over from the popular Takeshi Okada following the World Cup.

In other friendlies, Canada have one final chance to impress ahead of the Gold Cup when they take on Ecuador, as do tournament rivals Guatemala, who take on Venezuela.

Finally, Ukraine and Uzbekistan square off at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, site of the final of the European Championship in 2012.

Tue 31 May, 2011
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