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Lavolpe: Lack of Hard Work Hurts Mexico

Times Staff Writer

Mexico Coach Ricardo Lavolpe, whose team will play Paraguay in San Diego on March 26, said a lack of confidence and too little hard work were to blame for Mexico’s failure to make a greater impact internationally.

Despite a thriving league and huge fan support, Mexico has never done better than reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup, which it achieved in 1970 and 1986, each time as tournament host.

“It’s because we haven’t worked hard enough,” the Argentine-born Lavolpe told Reuters.

“Mexico has the quality players, but we need more work.... We have to plan a long line of [games] against strong opponents so [that] we can play at the same level. If we play just against other teams around here, we will never get better.”

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Lavolpe said Mexico’s recent one-goal loss to Argentina and tie with Colombia were the types of results that could help his players.

“They will start to see that the opposition are not monsters, they are not such ogres,” he said.

Germany, China Tie

China, host team for the fourth FIFA Women’s World Championship in September, held Germany to a 2-2 tie in a women’s international Tuesday at Guetersloh, Germany.

Zhang Ou Ying and Pu Wei scored for China, the 1999 world championship runners-up. Martina Mueller got both goals for the five-time European champion Germany.

Italian Freeze

The Italian soccer federation imposed a limit on the number of foreign players from outside the European Community (EC) that Italian clubs can have on their rosters.

“From next season, all clubs wanting to acquire a player from outside the EC will first be required to give up another,” Sergio Campana, president of the Italian players’ association, told reporters in Rome.

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The only exemption will be the four teams promoted from Serie B to Serie A this season. They can each add three non-EC players. Serie B and Serie C teams will not be allowed to add any non-EC players.

Porto Prevails

Portuguese leader FC Porto virtually wrapped up the league championship when it edged second-place Benfica, 1-0, on a goal by midfielder Deco Souza in front of 54,000 in the Stadium of Light at Lisbon. Porto has an almost insurmountable 13-point lead with 10 games remaining.

The match was the final one to be played at the venerable stadium before it is replaced in time for the 2004 European Championship, to be played in Portugal.

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Kanu’s Cause

Arsenal and Nigerian national team striker Kanu scored twice to lead African XI to a 7-4 victory over a World XI in an all-star charity match Kanu had organized at Bolton, England, to raise funds for his Kanu Heart Foundation.

Kanu, who had surgery for a potentially life-threatening heart condition in the United States not long after leading Nigeria to the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, established the foundation in 2000 to finance operations for African children with heart problems.

Quick Passes

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Wolfgang Wolf, the ideally named coach of VfL Wolfsburg of the German Bundesliga, was fired and replaced by Juergen Roeber. Wolf, 45, is the fourth Bundesliga coach to lose his job this season, after Andreas Brehme (Kaiserslautern), Klaus Toppmoeller (Bayer Leverkusen) and Hans Meyer (Borussia Moenchengladbach).... Midfielder Stefan Schwarz, who helped Sweden finish third in the 1994 World Cup, said he would retire at the end of this season. Schwarz, 33, plays for Sunderland of the English Premier League.... Israeli midfielder Reuven Atar, 34, retired after re-injuring his left knee in an Israeli league game. One of his country’s most creative players, Atar played professionally for 17 seasons and won 32 international caps.


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