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Paolo Guerrero ready to play in Peru
World Cup opener says coach

By sportswriter Michael Place SARANSK Russia (Xinhua) -- Peru captain Paolo Guerrero says he is ready to play in his team’s opening World Cup match against Denmark after his doping ban was temporarily lifted, team coach Ricardo Gareca said on Friday.

Guerrero has played just two matches for his Flamengo club since December, when he was banned for testing positive for cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine.

He said that he unwittingly consumed the substance in contaminated tea and that it did not enhance his sporting performance.

A Swiss court last month granted an order to freeze Guerrero’s 14-month ban during the World Cup in Russia, which began on Thursday.

The tournament marks Peru’s first appearance in football’s biggest event since 1982.

Gareca told a news conference that he had yet to decide if the 34-year-old would start in Saturday’s match at Mordovia Arena.

"I always wait until the last second to make my mind up," the Argentine said.

"Paolo has looked very good since rejoining the national team.

"I know he’s very, very happy.

"He is fit and ready to play."

In handing down its decision, the Swiss Federal Tribunal said it considered the likelihood that Guerrero would not play in a World Cup, given his age.

It also ruled that Guerrero "did not act intentionally or with significant negligence."

The court added that an appeal to overturn the suspension would be considered at a later date.

Days earlier, the captains of Peru’s World Cup Group C rivals - Australia, France, and Denmark - signed a letter asking FIFA to reconsider the ban.

"We want to express our gratitude to all of the captains," Gareca said.

"It was a great demonstration of solidarity with our national team.

And this has been very positive for Guerrero."

Peru’s all-time leading scorer with 32 goals in 86 international matches was given a 12-month ban last December but the penalty, backdated to November, was halved less than two weeks later by FIFA’s appeal committee.

However the Court of Arbitration for Sport extended the suspension by eight months on May 14 - two weeks after he returned for Brazil’s Flamengo - after a challenge by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The new ruling barred the former Bayern Munich player from all football-related activities until next January.


Mexica have to maintain "a cool head" to prevail in Russia, says former player

MEXICO CITY Russia (Xinhua) -- The Mexican football team will have to adopt a combative and united attitude to shine at the 2018 World Cup, said former Mexican national football player Miguel Espana.

Despite the importance of the World Cup, Espana reiterated Mexico must maintain "a cool head" to prevail.

Espana, who played with his team during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, told Xinhua that the current squad must trust in the speed, intelligence and ability of its players.

Mexico will line up on Sunday for its first game against Germany, the reigning World Cup champions.

The "Tri", as the Mexican team is affectionately known, is in Group F against Germany, Sweden and South Korea.

"The key to success for the Tri will be concentration in conceding no goals ...," explained Espana.

When facing South Korea and Sweden, he advised that the team must dominate the midfield to try and score.

Should all these elements come together, Espana said "Mexico has high chances of going beyond the round of 16 matches."

"The main challenge facing the squad is for the team to be ‘complete,’ with the same idea, the same confidence and, that way, face all the difficulties in their path," he added.

Espana, whose coaching career saw him take the Pumas UNAM, a Mexican league football club, to the final of the Copa Sudamericana in 2005, said that the Tri could do well, since 15 of the 23 players played at the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

"The strategy being developed and applied by the team at the World Cup in Russia will be crucial.

"However, I think Mexico needs to know how to use its key elements, such as Hirving Lozano and his characteristic speed," said Espana.

He named goalkeeper Memo Ochoa, midfielder Hector Herrera, and striker Carlos Vela, as well as Lozano, as being key to Mexican hopes.

For Mexico, football represents happiness, emotion and passion, as evidenced by the thousands of compatriots who travel around the world to follow their team.

"I would tell the Tri to get passionate, to leave it all on the pitch, to do it with happiness and pleasure to be able to fully enjoy such an enriching career as football," he explained.

A few days ago, Mexican coach Juan Carlos Osorio told the press he was optimistic and emotional.

"We are going to give our all ... we know the group well.

"Today, we have players in other positions and they are doing well.

"This gives us a great possibility of having a plan B and even C.

"We will start the World Cup and the competition will be fierce," he said.

Mexico will be hoping to get past the first round of the knockout phase and make to the quarterfinals, something it has not done since 1986.


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