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Mexico confident of reaching quarterfinals, tweaks lineup

– Mexico coach Miguel Herrera will make one change to his starting lineup to face the Netherlands in the World Cup second round – and says his team is “ready to make history” today.

Versatile midfielder Carlos Salcido will replace suspended Jose Juan Vazquez in Fortaleza, Herrera said Saturday, while Manchester United forward Javier Hernandez is set to keep his role as a second-half substitute.

Herrera believes his side can end Mexico’s dismal run of five consecutive failures to reach the quarterfinals at a World Cup.

“We have a great atmosphere and a great attitude going into this game, and that is key,” Herrera said.

“Do we believe this could be Mexico’s World Cup? Yes, more than ever. We are very convinced that this time will be different for us, and we are ready to make history.”

Mexico faces the high-scoring Dutch after conceding only once during the group stage, beating Cameroon 1-0 before holding Brazil to a 0-0 draw after an outstanding performance from goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, and then defeating Croatia 3-1.

Geiger 1st US ref in knockout match

Mark Geiger will become the first American to referee a knockout stage match at the World Cup.

The 39-year-old former math teacher was selected by FIFA to handle the France vs. Nigeria match Monday in Brasilia.

Geiger, a Major League Soccer referee from Beachwood, New Jersey, and his regular assistants, American Sean Hurd and Canadian Joe Fletcher, were announced for the round-of-16 game by FIFA on Saturday.

Geiger also worked Chile’s 2-0 win over Spain and Colombia’s 3-0 victory against Greece.

African champions regaining focus

With a row over bonus payments resolved after presidential intervention, the focus of Nigeria’s World Cup squad was back on football Saturday as all 22 available players participated in training ahead of the second-round match against France.

Victor Moses had been the main injury concern for the Nigerians but the Chelsea winger trained under bright sunshine in the Brazilian capital.

Only midfielder Michael Babatunde, who fractured his wrist during the group stage, wasn’t present.

The possible threat of Nigeria’s players striking over unpaid bonuses was averted late Thursday when Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan stepped in and spoke to coach Stephen Keshi and captain Joseph Yobo.

“Our mentality must be strong,” Keshi said.

“Our approach to every match has always been the same: to win.”