Mexico-Iceland friendly pits teams with high World Cup hopes

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Santa Clara (California), March 22 (IANS) Mexico will face Iceland here Friday night in a pre-World Cup friendly involving teams with high expectations heading into this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The Mexicans, led by Colombian head coach Juan Carlos Osorio, easily qualified for the World Cup out of the Concacaf region and will be trying to put past disappointments behind them at this year’s edition of football’s premier event, reports Efe.

El Tri’s manager says he has his final, 23-man World Cup roster in mind but still could make some final changes.

Mexico, which has reached the knockout stage in each of the past six World Cups but failed to reach the quarter-finals in any of them, has been drawn in a difficult Group F in the 2018 World Cup along with defending champion Germany, Sweden and South Korea.

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Iceland, one of the most remarkable stories in global football in recent years, reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 and followed up that achievement by qualifying for the World Cup for the first time.

In the round-robin phase in Russia, it will be matched up in another strong World Cup group that also includes Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria.

Iceland’s captain, Aron Gunnarsson, said Friday night’s game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara would be a good test against a difficult opponent but that it was a challenge he is eager to face.

The Nordic island country’s side will feature a line-up on Friday night that includes all but four of the players that competed in Euro 2016: forward Eidur Gudhohnsen (retired), Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alfred Finnbogason (injured) and Haukur Kauksson, who was not called up for the friendly.

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Iceland has never defeated Mexico, having played to scoreless draws with El Tri in 2003 and 2010 and losing 0-1 early last year.

Both teams also will play friendlies on Tuesday, with Mexico taking on Croatia and Iceland squaring off against Peru.

Probable line-ups:

Mexico: Jose de Jesus Corona; Hector Moreno, Nestor Araujo, Jesus Gallardo, Carlos Salcedo; Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado, Jonathan Gonzalez; Carlos Vela, Oribe Peralta, Raul Jimenez. Head coach: Juan Carlos Osorio.

Iceland: Hannes Halldorsson; Birkir Saevarsson, Kari Arnason, Ragnar Sigurdsson, Hordur Magnusson; Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Emil Hallfredsson, Birkir Bjarnason; Kjartan Finnbogason, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson. Head coach: Heimir Hallgrimsson.

–IANS

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