MEXICO VS NEW ZEALAND
Referee: Viktor KASSAI (HUN)
The first leg match between Mexico and New Zealand is scheduled for tonight at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City with the return leg scheduled for one week later in Wellington, New Zealand.
Mexico are one of the great World Cup nations and have appeared at every edition of the global tournament since 1990. Bad run-in -form in the CONCACAF region has seen Mexico make numerous changes in the manager position in the last few months and has also seen the team lose two games at the Azteca in 78 World Cup qualifying matches.
Currently in the hot seat for Mexico is Club America manager who will rely on his club players and leave out all European based Mexican players, meaning stars such as Javier Hernandez of Manchester United and Javier Aquino of Villarreal are sitting the first leg out.
Herrera cited a taxing travel schedule—and a desire to utilize players accustomed to Mexico City’s high altitude—for his reasoning behind leaving the European stars off the roster.
True to his style, Miguel Herrera informed the media in his press conference what the starting lineup will be. It is the same starting eleven which took the field on October 31 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego against Finland.
Mexico is going to lean heavily on Oribe Peralta. The in-form striker has scored in three straight matches and five of the past six for ElTri. In the only game he didn’t score, the side got shut out.
His ability to get on the same page with the other forward, whether it be Aldo de Nigris and Raul Jimenez, as well as an inexperienced international midfield is essential. Getting that chemistry to develop quickly on the attack is crucial in the first leg.
New Zealand though head to Mexico City with problems of their own as Ryan Nelsen has been ruled out with an ankle problem, while experienced striker Chris Killen and young utility Tim Payne are also out injured. They can rely on Marco Rojas, the only member of the New Zealand squad playing in one of Europe’s top few leagues and 21-year old Chris Wood who has already proven himself at the international level, playing 32 times and scoring 10 goals, a player that Rafael Marquea has to keep a close eye on.
El Tri may have only won two qualifying games at Azteca Stadium in the hexagonal, but are still heavy favourites for this one. New Zealand will put up a fight, but it would be shocking if it managed to even earn a draw at the Azteca.