Franco is off to the World Cup Finals

CONSIDERING that he has not been fit enough even to sit on the bench for West Ham since his arrival, it was perhaps something of a surprise that Guillermo Franco managed to play 86 minutes for Mexico at the weekend. It was a vital game for the Central Ame

CONSIDERING that he has not been fit enough even to sit on the bench for West Ham since his arrival, it was perhaps something of a surprise that Guillermo Franco managed to play 86 minutes for Mexico at the weekend.

It was a vital game for the Central American outfit as they booked their place in the World Cup Finals next summer in South Africa with a 4-1 pounding of El Salvador.

And Franco certainly played his part. Not fit enough for the Fulham game, he darted around the field in Mexico City with real purpose and played a part in two of the team's goals as they confirmed qualification with one game to spare in their CONCACAF group.

The big striker has now flown back from Mexico to prepare for Saturday's tough trip to Stoke City, where he is expected to feature for the first time, though probably from the bench.


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The 32-year-old, who has 20 international caps to his name, has travelled with West Ham for the games at both Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City, without even getting in the squad.

However, if he fails to be named even as a substitute at the Britannia Stadium, then the patience of the West Ham fans will be running thin.

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Chief executive Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani helped pay for Franco's service by forgoing part of their salaries, now it is time for them and for the West Ham fans to see some return on the pitch from the Mexican.

MEANWHILE, West Ham defender Jonathan Spector will be another who will spend next summer in South Africa as he helped the United States to a decisive victory over the weekend.

The 23-year-old (left) made his 21st appearance for the States as they battled to an exciting 3-2 victory in Honduras to confirm their place at the top of the group - a point clear of Mexico with one game left.

Spector, who has been a fixture in the team in recent matches at right back, is due to play in their final group game against Costa Rica tonight (Wednesday).

The defender missed out on a place in the United States team at last year's Olympic Games, and so will be desperate to stay fit and make the plane to South Africa next year.

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