Mexico face NZ with one foot in World Cup finals

Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:35pm EST
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By Greg Stutchbury

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Pride dented and World Cup hopes in the balance, Mexico have coped with the ignominy of an intercontinental playoff and are all but assured of a spot at next year's global soccer showpiece before they face New Zealand in the second leg on Wednesday.

'El Tri', who only qualified for the playoff when the United States scored two late goals to beat Panama, ran rampant against a defensive All Whites' side at the Azteca last week to record a 5-1 victory in the first leg.

While New Zealand must score at least four goals to give themselves any hope of advancing to their second successive finals, the visitors are not prepared to accept they have booked their place in Brazil just yet.

"We're here to win the match, to convince that we've done things right," coach Miguel Herrera told reporters in Wellington. "We can't make the mistake of overconfidence or triumphalism, at this moment our principal enemy could be Mexico (itself).

"We'll go out with the same attitude, as determined or more so than in the first leg."

Mexico exploited New Zealand's defensive tactics in the first leg when the All Whites had nine players behind the ball at times, which allowed the hosts the space to dictate play.

They also exploited a makeshift All Whites defense with three goals coming from set-pieces.

New Zealand felt the result flattered Mexico.   Continued...

Mexico's national soccer team coach Miguel Herrera gives instructions to his players during their 2014 World Cup qualifying playoff first leg soccer match against New Zealand at the Azteca stadium in Mexico City November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Henry Romero