Duo hoping for happy return
Scheduled to play against Ghana on Wednesday, the friendly on English soil will be the Mexican national team's first game in Europe since reaching the Round of 16 at Germany 2006. The Tricolor, who will be welcoming back some familar faces for the game, can expect to face a different style of play against the Africans than encountered in their regular CONCACAF fixtures.
Good to be back
Playing host to the clash between El Tri and the Black Stars will be Craven Cottage, home of London outfit Fulham. The match is a repeat of the friendly from 1 March 2006, when a Guillermo Franco strike sealed a narrow 1-0 win for Mexico. Back in the squad for the first time since Germany 2006, the player would love to reprise that performance this week.
After the exit of Ricardo LaVolpe, the man who first brought the Argentinian-born forward into the national-team frame, the door to the Tricolor appeared to close for the Villarreal man. New coach Hugo Sanchez had been an outspoken critic of Lavolpe's policy of selecting foreign-born players, while a long-standing back injury prevented the former Monterrey star finding his best form.
The 2007/08 season, however, has seen the striker finally shake off his fitness problems and become a key figure in the Submarino Amarillo's push for Primera Liga glory. Indeed, it was Franco's late winner against Levante at the weekend that further consolidated Villarreal's push for a UEFA Champions League berth and moved them to within just six points of leaders Real Madrid.
And the icing on the cake for the in-form goalgetter was the call from Mexico supremo Sanchez. "Even though it still hasn't quite sunk in, I'm really happy. I've said in the past that it would be a great honour for me to return (to the national team) after the tough times I've been through in Spain. I'm very grateful," said Franco, after the squad was announced.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Also welcomed back by Sanchez was a man who still has plenty to prove: Aaron Galindo. The defender, who served a year's suspension after failing a drug test at the FIFA Confederations Cup Germany 2005, will be hoping for a solid performance against Ghana after nearly three years away.
And in an intriguing twist, it is in Germany where Galindo has reignited his footballing career. Having turned out in three different countries after his ban was lifted, the centre-back has finally settled with Bundesliga revelations Eintracht Frankfurt, where he has become a key figure in their recent success.
"I always did my job with a view to being considered (for selection)," said the player after hearing the good news. "I don't enjoy being stuck in a rut and I feel very grateful to be returning to the national squad. I want to go to South Africa. The last World Cup passed me by but this time will be different."
Wednesday's game comes at an uncertain time for El Tri coach Hugo Sanchez, the recipient of a wave of criticism from fans and the media after Mexico's U-23 side failed to qualify for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008.
And the under-fire tactician will be without several of his star names against a very strong Ghana side. Injuries have deprived him of FC Barcelona pair Rafael Marquez and Giovani dos Santos as well as Osasuna forward Carlos Vela, while gifted shotstopper Guillermo Ochoa is on Copa Libertadores duty for club side America.
All of which adds spice to Wednesday's encounter, with the performances of Franco and Galindo sure to be under extra scrutiny. A big display would prove Sanchez' wisdom is ending their international exile, anything else could see Hugol's grip on the Mexican reins slip further from his grasp.