TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico -- Chicago Fire striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco announced his retirement from the Mexican national team on Wednesday, prior to making his final international appearance in a World Cup qualifying match against Canada.
Blanco played the last seven minutes of the match, which Mexico won 3-0, after which he was carried by his teammates as he waved goodbye to the 25,000 fans gathered at Victor Manuel Reyna stadium. While it was initially announced that it was his 100th international appearance, there were conflicting figures Thursday ranging from 99 to 105.
"It was my own decision, I've always said that you have to retire on time, and I'm leaving with the love from the fans," Blanco said at the end of the match. "I made this decision and I'm not changing it for anything on the world."
Blanco, one of Mexico's greatest players, told the team of his decision to retire from international football late Tuesday.
The 35-year old Blanco was used as reserve by coach Sven-Goran Eriksson in Mexico's last two matches, against Honduras and Jamaica.
Earlier in the day, it looked liked Blanco was not going to play at all.
"I hope I did not disrespected him, I did what was best for the team, which was winning three points. With a different score, maybe he would have played more," Eriksson said. "We showed respect because he played in all three matches."
Blanco played his first game for the national team in February 1995 in a match against Uruguay. He played in two World Cups, in 1998 and 2002, and scored in each. He helped Mexico win CONCACAF Gold Cups in 1996 and 1998, and helped to beat Brazil for the 1999 Confederations Cup.
"I will remember all those moments ... two World Cups, the Confederations Cup, when I injured my knee ... I left everything on the field and I would like to have another game at Estadio Azteca to say goodbye, with that, I will leave very happy," added Blanco.
Blanco, who scored 34 goals for Mexico, is under contract with the Fire for an annual salary of $2.7 million -- the second-highest in Major League Soccer after David Beckham -- and he recently talked about his desire to play at least to more years with Chicago.
"There is still more from me," he said, "I want to play a few more years in the U.S. and as you know, I want to come back to play six months with America."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press