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Mexico Faces New Zealand Today for Trip to World Cup

November 20, 2013

Mexico celebrates after scoring against New Zealand during their victory at the 2014 World Cup first leg play-off match, in Mexico City, on Nov. 13th. Mexico has vowed to avoid complacency in today's match.

Wellington, New Zealand - Mexico has vowed to avoid complacency in today's second leg of their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Intercontinental Play-Off against New Zealand, despite taking a 5-1 advantage into the match.

After a dismal qualifying campaign, El Tri finally hit form against the Oceania champions in front of 105,000 fans at Mexico City's Azteca stadium last week.

Striker Oribe Peralta, who scored two goals, said Mexico has to maintain the pressure in Wellington and can not afford to take the 79th-ranked New Zealanders lightly.

"I know that the score is already largely in our favor, but we have to try to increase the advantage in the second leg to get the ticket to Brazil 2014," he said.

Former Barcelona defender, Rafael Marquez said the fact that Mexico has to contest a play-off half a world away from home in order make the World Cup is enough to stop them becoming over-confident. After barely scraping into fourth position in CONCACAF qualifying, the chance to qualify against New Zealand is a reprieve the Mexicans are determined not to squander.

"Without doubt it's been difficult to see Mexico in a play-off but we're here and we've got to show our best and continue to work hard to ensure we get through," he said.

The world's 24th ranked team, regarded as a regional footballing powerhouse, El Tri won only two of their 10 CONCACAF qualifiers, scoring a paltry seven goals and shedding three coaches along the way.

In turning around Mexico's fortunes, Herrera shunned Europe-based stars such as Manchester United's Javier Hernandez and Villarreal's Giovani dos Santos, opting instead for domestic players.

He is set to adopt the same policy in Wellington, where the All Whites are keen to make amends before 37,000 fans on home soil for the loss dubbed by the New Zealand media as "the massacre at the Azteca."

Kiwis Stare Up At Mountain

The All Whites have in their history only reached two World Cups and were already huge underdogs going into the first leg against a footballing nation that has played in 14 of the last 19 tournaments.

Adding a 5-1 disadvantage makes the odds virtually impossible for New Zealand's collection of journeymen and semi-professionals - online bookmaker TAB has suspended betting on Mexico progressing.

Captain Tommy Smith said his team, who need a minimum 4-0 scoreline to achieve an unlikely upset, needed to attack from the offset, abandoning the negative tactics that cost them dearly in the first leg.

"I think that's the only way forward really, we have to get an early goal and put them on the back foot as soon as possible," he said.

"With the result in Mexico, we felt like we let the fans down a little bit, so we just have to go all guns blazing and do as well as we can."

Economic Stakes

A trip by Mexico to the world’s most popular sports event would be of great relief to the soccer units of Adidas and Nike — especially Adidas.

Officials at Adidas' North American office held a media day last week at their Portland office to draw attention to World Cup-inspired footwear, apparel, and the official match ball. Along the way, Ernesto Bruce, director of US soccer, reminded reporters that Mexico’s jersey is the largest selling in the world, with 33 million sold during the 2010 World Cup.

The New Zealand Herald, in a story published Sunday, put a number on the World Cup monetary stakes facing Mexico at close to $1 billion.