Rafael Marquez (pictured) played his first game for Mexico in 1997. (Photo: Victor Straffon/Straffon Images)
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – On February 5, 1997, Rafael Marquez made his senior debut for Mexico in a 3-1 win over visiting Ecuador.
Twenty years later, the 37-year-old Atlas defender is still going strong for the Tricolor. He hopes to earn his 137th cap on Wednesday, when Mexico squares off against Iceland at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Marquez was selected to help kick off Mexico’s busy 2017 campaign, which includes the final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and two competitions that former Barcelona star won earlier in his career -- the FIFA Confederations Cup (1999) and the CONCACAF Gold Cup (2003, 2011).
Mexico head coach Juan Carlos Osorio is happy to be part of an occasion that serves to strengthen Marquez’s already legendary resume.
Said the 54-year-old Colombian, who was once an assistant coach at Manchester City and a head coach at numerous clubs in South America: "I spoke with Santiago Baños, our Sports Director, who’s here, that this is really a reason to be proud because life has rewarded me and I’ve had the opportunity to have players at the end of their careers at the club level…Peter Schmeichel, Steve McManaman, Claudio Reyna, Paulo Wanchope, and, at the end of his career, Juan Pablo Ángel in Colombia.
"But in the twilight of his career at the national team level, a player of the level of Rafael, I had never had that opportunity. I hope to contribute to Marquez at that end of his career, either in plans that he has, and, obviously, Rafael can lend, give and offer to the national team all that experience…everything that has made him a player of credit to that record, which is not miniscule, is really outstanding. Twenty years playing for the national team, I think very few have that privilege.”
In addition to his success with Mexico, which includes appearances in four FIFA World Cup editions, Marquez has also won four Spanish La Liga championships, two UEFA Champions League crowns, as well as single titles in the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup – all with Barcelona.