Andres Guardado: The 2018 World Cup could be my last

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Barring injury, the 31-year-old will head to his fourth World Cup this summer but it still has the excitement of his first

Russia 2018 likely will mark Andres Guardado's fourth World Cup for Mexico, but the 31-year-old said it still carries the same mystique about it as the 2006 tournament in Germany.

"It still feels like my first time and it could well be my last. Most importantly, it's my last chance to be part of a team that goes down in Mexican football history. That's my biggest motivation," he told FIFA's official website.

The Real Betis midfielder has high hopes for El Tri this tournament, saying in November that the team is looking for knockout round success rather than simply getting out of the round of 16. That has been a barrier for El Tri, who haven't made the quarterfinals since the 1986 tournament.

Guardado has seen his role on the field evolve, not only in assuming more leadership on the pitch but also in the job he's expected to fill. Oh, and his hair also is much more constrained than it used to be.

Andres Guardado 2006

"I've changed quite a lot compared to that long-haired youngster, who started out on the left flank," Guardado told FIFA's official website. "I used to be more of a box-to-box player, who took people on and got on the end of moves. Now, I'm a central midfielder and hold my position more; I bring balance to the team.

"What's still the same, though, is my hunger, my drive to win both individually and as a team. That's what's kept me at the highest level."

Guardado will be a key player this summer for Mexico as one of manager Juan Carlos Osorio's most experienced regulars. That hasn't always been the case for Guardado, who had a brief cameo in 2006 and was frustrated with his lack of playing time from then-manager Javier Aguirre in the 2010 competition in South Africa.

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"Truth be told, I've got really bad memories of that World Cup. It was a very strange tournament for me. The coach didn't fully trust me and I didn't feel quite right when I played," he said. "My most vivid memory is of that game against Uruguay, when we were battling to top the group. He started me, but then pulled me off at halftime, with no explanation whatsoever, and we ended up losing the match. We still went through, but that World Cup left a very sour taste in my mouth. I didn't enjoy it very much."

Four years later, it was a big contrast with Miguel Herrera relying on Guardado as El Tri made it out of a group with host Brazil. Guardado scored Mexco's second goal of a 3-1 group victory over Brazil and said it's a memory he'll always keep with him.

"I've got lots of great memories of that World Cup, but if I had to single out one, it'd obviously be my goal against Croatia," he said. "Scoring at a World Cup is special and it'll stay with me for the rest of my life."

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