MEXICO CITY — Mexico defeated Israel 3-0 in a World Cup warm-up game Wednesday that doubled as a farewell for iconic forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who brought his backheel magic one last time.
The nearly packed 105,000-capacity Azteca Stadium in Mexico City erupted in cheers every time Blanco, 41, touched the ball during his 38 minutes on the pitch.
Wearing the captain’s armband, the number 10 showed flashes of his younger days, making three backheel passes, nearly setting up a goal and taking a free kick that sailed too high.
Mexico manager Miguel Herrera had originally planned to let Blanco play 20 minutes. But he gave fans more time with their idol before replacing him with young striker Raul Jimenez.
Blanco, who scored 39 goals for Mexico, including three in three World Cups, was given a standing ovation at half-time as he took a victory lap.
Defying his age, the playmaker who once played for Mexico’s Club America and Spain’s Valladolid recently signed with Mexican first division team Puebla.
Two of Mexico’s goals were courtesy of wingback Miguel Layun, with some help from Israeli goalkeeper Ariel Harush, who failed to punch out the first one and saw the ball float into the net after touching the ball on the second one.
Marco Fabian made it 3-0 with a shot at the edge of the penalty area in the 85th minute.
But the party atmosphere was marred in the second half when Mexico goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona was carried out on a stretcher and replaced after the leg of one of his defenders accidentally hit him in the back of the head.
It was Mexico’s last game at home before embarking on a US tour for friendlies against Ecuador, Bosnia and Portugal.
Mexico, who struggled to qualify for the tournament, are in Group A at the World Cup.
Their first game will be against Cameroon on June 13 followed by a June 17 clash against hosts Brazil and a June 23 game against Croatia.