Mexico legend Rafa Marquez still holding out World Cup hope

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The 39-year-old is a longshot to go to Russia as a player but said he'd be open to a role as an adviser or assistant

Mexico legend Rafa Marquez is still holding out hope of being on El Tri's roster for the World Cup, he said Sunday.

Between legal troubles, injuries and a general drop in level, Marquez hasn't represented Mexico since the 2017 Confederations Cup. Despite that, he's still dreaming of making Juan Carlos Osorio's squad and becoming just the second position player to play in five different World Cups.

"I still have the same dream as always, hope dies at the end, so I'm still hoping, continuing to work with the same desire I've had to be there," Marquez said at a news conference Sunday.

Marquez has not played for El Tri since the U.S. Department of Treasury designated him as a frontman for a drug kingpin in August 2017. He has fought the designation, which is not a criminal charge, and returned to the field in October 2017 for Atlas.

While questions continue about Marquez's ability to leave the country, the 39-year-old said he would not be able to play for Atlas were he still in legal jeopardy. The question then becomes whether Marquez is among Mexico's top 23 players. The central midfielder has struggled with injury problems this season but played all of Atlas' 3-2 victory over Santos Laguna on Friday.

"If I had a legal problem holding me up, I wouldn't be playing with Atlas. I have global brands at Atlas, and there's no problem. That also applies to the national team," he said. "I know he'll make his decision about the administrative part of things, although obviously the most important is the sporting side and that depends on 'professor' Osorio."

Many commentators have suggested Marquez seems more suited to a role as an adviser at the World Cup, going to Russia as part of the delegation but not taking up a roster spot. While Marquez said he'd be open to that sort of arrangement, he's yet to speak with Osorio or the Mexican federation about the possibility.

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"I'll always be available to support the national team no matter the position or the way. Obviously we haven't spoken about that topic yet, they haven't proposed anything to me and you have to wait for the time that might be necessary to know if it's going to happen," he said.

Mexico suffered a frustrating end to the March FIFA window, losing 1-0 to Croatia and seeing Carlos Salcedo and Nestor Araujo undergo surgery the next day to recover from injuries suffered in the match. Marquez said the team is progressing overall and, though the loss of two defenders would increase his chances of being named to the roster, sent positive wishes to the injured pair.

"I think more time and work is needed, but it's tough to have that with the things that are happening. In general, I see a national team at a good level. Individually, we have very experienced people. Unfortunately, we've also lost two important players who hopefully can recover quickly, I wish them a quick recovery. We're hoping that everyone else continues at a good level to get to the World Cup in the best form possible."

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