Mexico head for HK, beaten but not bowed

With an assortment of minor aches and pains, Mexico's France 98 heroes were due to leave Los Angeles late last night for Hong Kong and their Carlsberg Cup bid after a lone-goal defeat by double world champions Argentina.

Coach Manuel Lapuente conducted a light training session close to the squad's suburban hotel and checked out the injury situation after a game which he felt the Mexicans could have drawn.

'We hit the crossbar and had one other clear chance to score. Their goal was nothing special and might have been avoided. A draw would have been a fairer result and a good one for us,' said Lapuente, who guided Mexico to a second-round place in France and a narrow, unlucky defeat against ageing Germany.

He is using 80 per cent of the players in Hong Kong who did Mexico proud last summer and said yesterday: 'It was a hard game and some of our players were feeling it this morning.

'But there is nothing very serious and the team who played against Argentina will be available for selection in the Carlsberg Cup,' he said.

All three overseas teams - Mexico, Bulgaria and African champions Egypt - arrive today.

The Egyptians have already organised a training session at Shamshuipo Sports Ground for 9 pm.

An Egyptian FA spokesman said: 'It is quite a long flight and our coach felt it was important to have a light training session.' Bulgarian players are flying in from Cyprus and Tunisia to link up with the main party in London before flying on to Hong Kong where they arrive in late afternoon.

This year's Carlsberg Cup will again have a massive international television audience. Both Mexico and Egypt are taking the games live as well as satellite stations in China, Singapore and Malaysia. Edited versions of the four games will go out on stations in Australia, New Zealand, South America and eastern Europe.

Egypt meet Bulgaria in the opening game with tournament favourites Mexico playing the HK League XI in the second game on Tuesday.