Back-tracking Sanchez accepts naturalised players

November 18, 2006

MEXICO CITY, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Mexico's new coach Hugo Sanchez, previously a fierce critic of the policy of picking foreign-born players, back-tracked on Friday and said there would be room for them in his team.

'I'm not going to think that a player will not have the same chance if he is naturalised,' Sanchez, named as coach on Thursday after several years of pushing for the job, said in an interview with the Televisa network.

'Everyone will have the same opportunity. I have nothing against them, on the contrary I thank them for helping Mexican football.'

Sanchez's predecessor Ricardo La Volpe sparked controversy by including Brazilian-born Antonio Naelson and Argentine-born Guillermo Franco in his World Cup squad.

The selection of Franco, in particular, was heavily criticised because he spent only three years in the country with Monterrey in between arriving from San Lorenzo and leaving for Spanish club Villarreal.

Sanchez's remarks on Thursday were a stark contrast to his previous declarations on the subject.

Last year he said: 'It's very dangerous because we've already got two or three and that could became four, five or six and then we will reach a moment when the national team is no longer the national team, but a team of naturalised players.

'It would be great to win a World Cup with pure Mexicans, but how sad it would be if we won it with naturalised players.'

The outspoken former Real Madrid striker is widely regarded as the finest player Mexico has produced, although he has had mixed fortunes as a coach.

He won back-to-back Mexican championships with UNAM in the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 seasons but left the club at a low ebb last year after a dismal run of results.

Sanchez reiterated previous comments in which he said Mexico, who have never gone beyond the World Cup quarter-finals, were good enough to win the tournament.

'Of course we can, I'm convinced of it,' he said.