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 By Tom Marshall

Mexico's Rafa Marquez, 39, still targeting World Cup amid legal issues

Sebastian Salazar and Herculez Gomez recap Mexico's first friendly of 2018, discuss who's on track to make Osorio's World Cup squad and reflect on Jonathan Gonzalez's debut.

Mexico defender Rafa Marquez is not giving up on matching his countryman Antonio Carabajal and Germany's Lothar Matthaus by appearing at five World Cups.

Marquez featured for Mexico at last summer's Confederations Cup and in World Cup qualification for Russia 2018, but was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department on Aug. 9 for links to a drug trafficking organization -- which he denied -- and immediately put his career on hold to fight the charges.

Marquez returned to training in September and took to the field for Atlas against Queretaro on Oct. 28, but hasnot been called into a Mexico squad since, with the status of a possible return to the national team still not clear.

His lawyer indicated that he is not allowed to travel to the United States, where Mexico plays most of its friendlies.

But the former Barcelona player, currently captaining Atlas in Liga MX, remains hopeful that a solution will be found and that he will be at Russia 2018 with El Tri.

"I see myself still playing with the national team, it would be an important end to my career, but I'm not clinging on to what might happen," Marquez told ESPN.

"I know the circumstances, I know the present and that I'm still enjoying this magnificent sport."

"It would be nice [to return to the national team], something important, but I also think that what I've done in my career leaves me quite calm -- I'm not clinging onto this final dream."

Rafa Marquez is still under investigation by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Marquez also talked about Mexico's Group F opponents Germany, Sweden and South Korea and said it would be tough for them to advance.

"We've been handed a big challenge, quite difficult," the 39-year-old said. "I think there is quality in the team, there is talent in the coaching staff and the players and the directors are doing everything so that they can work well.

"You have to take it as a difficult challenge. I think the national team is capable of being able to overcome that challenge."

Marquez also discussed the role of foreign players in Liga MX and suggested reducing the number -- 10 non-homegrown (foreign) players are allowed in each team's 18-player matchday squad -- would benefit Mexican players in the long run.

The Champions League winner added that Mexican players in Europe were providing a path for younger players to follow.

"The Mexican player, above all those that are in Europe, has been able to change his mindset a little from the one the Mexican footballers used to have," Marquez said.

"Now they've demonstrated that they can stay in big teams, at a good level, that they dream of staying in Europe and that is a model that others can copy."

Marquez is set to play for Atlas at reigning Liga MX champions Tigres on Saturday.

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.

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