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Rafael Marquez has not played for Mexico since Sven-Goran Eriksson was manager, but is part of the picture for this upcoming round of qualifiers.

After a lengthy absence from the national team due to injury, Rafael Marquez has returned with a new outlook and more humble approach to a Tricolor side that has managed to turn their fortunes around without the help of the Mexican Kaiser.

Speaking with reporters outside the Mexican national team’s high-end training facilities Marquez has admitted to having matured as a player and even that bringing in Sven-Goran Eriksson was a mistake.

“It was a bad decision to bring someone (Sven-Goran Eriksson) that perhaps did not know the country, Mexican football, it’s players, it’s ambience, and could not transmit what Javier Aguirre is now transmitting,” admitted Marquez. “We all had doubts (about being close to South Africa) but with the arrival of Aguirre the course for everything has changed; so his arrival to the national team has been a good thing. I think that we believe in his work and we need to complete it by qualifying.”

With the match against El Salvador around the corner Marquez has noted an improvement in the squad’s confidence but still will not undervalue the Central American side which still maintains a mathematical chance to qualify to the World Cup.

“I think that after all the results that the group has obtained well that has given us much confidence. Our football level is very good, we have demonstrated that, and we have the pressure to play at home but with our fans, with our people, in a stadium that we are familiar with and they, whether they have played at Azteca or not, will also have pressure, a maximum pressure, more than what we will have.”

Marquez has barely played for Mexico in the Hexagonal. His only match was in El Tri's 2-0 loss to the United States in February. He was sent off in that game, suspended for two matches afterward and injury ruled him out of the next five qualifiers.

But the two-time World Cup veteran said the team must close out the job, even if he hasn't been part of the turnaround.

“We need to finish the job, we cannot relax now that qualification is so close and that we are working with intensity. Javier has told us one and a thousand times and we cannot relax. We must maintain our confidence; play the best way possible, so that we can celebrate on Saturday.  If we can yes will try (to win by a lopsided result) but first we will try to score a goal and after that if we can score more goals then we will score them. I am not sure if we will defeat them by a large margin but what I can say is that we will play with everything to get the win,” assured the Barcelona defender.

As far his fitness, Marquez said it would not be an issue.

“I am ready to play 90 minutes,” boasted Marquez after being asked if he was match-fit. “I have been, little by little, trying to regain my rhythm. I have not played a full 90 yet but physically I am prepared for that. The game (against El Salvador) will not be easy, mathematically they still have a chance and they will go all out here so we need to have a mentality of precaution and do our work and not overlook any rival, explained Marquez”

Questioned over the captain’s arm-band, which Gerardo Torrado has taken over, Marquez maintained that he did not care to wear it as he was still a leader within the team.

“Now there are new things ahead, I cannot live in the past, so I come to help the national team and try to do a good job and nothing else. For me the captaincy is not important, my hierarchy and what I have won is something that I still have, leadership is something that is shown in the field with or without the captain’s armband. And with or without the captain’s armband I have shown that I am a leader.”

“I believe that it is maturity, I have won everything with my club and I am enjoying the moment. I am happy to be here, I am happy to be at Barcelona where I have had good and bad times, now I am enjoying life and want to take advantage of opportunities such as this one,” Marquez said of his return to the national team.

The Mexican Kaiser, however, feels that despite his success with Barcelona he still needs to succeed with the national team.

“Now I have to obtain something important with the national team. I believe that is the only thing left for me to win, to make history with the national team in a World Cup,” concluded Marquez. 

Joel Aceves, Goal.com

For more coverage of the Mexican national team, visit Goal.com's Mexican football section.

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