A dark cloud hung over the Mexican national team’s collective head like the colorful regalia its fans are known to wear. Not since 1990 had they faced the prospect of missing the World Cup. Yet, here they were, about to face off with New Zealand in a two-leg, home-and-home series that would decide their next four years.
To keep their World Cup qualification dreams alive, El Tri did a lot of unconventional – some would call boneheaded – things. For starters, they cycled through almost as many coaches in just as many games. Four gents for five matches. Even more bizarre is that they fired Victor Manuel Vucetich, one of Mexico’s finest coaches who they had long courted, after only two matches. One of which he won.
From there, they hired wild child Miguel Herrera, another expected faux pas. Except, Herrera has the boys in green painting the soccer world red again.
They absolutely steamrolled the New Zealand side in a 5-1 first leg that would be confidence-shaking for any squad, let alone for a Kiwi team that looked stiff.
The stats say it all.
Mexico completed 85 percent of its passes while New Zealand came in more than 20 points lower at 61.
Within the penalty area, Mexico also dominated. It completed 24 passes to New Zealand’s three.
Mexico harassed NZ goalkeeper Glen Moss, taking 21 shots on goal. By contrast, the Kiwis only had three shots on target.
Mexico City’s altitude (7,350 feet) visibly affected the New Zealand side but it wasn’t an excuse for their abysmal marking. With Mexico attacking from every which way, it was peculiar to say the least, seeing the New Zealanders leave Mexican players completely open, even after been three goals in the hole.
Mexico came in as the favorite to take the series with their odds now astronomically higher. Still, they’re fortunate to have gotten this far as they’ve played horrendously for a good while now. So much so that many of their countrymen, this writer included, hoped they got booted from World Cup contention to shake up the shady inner politics of the Mexican Football Federation (FMF). If they can manage to keep their 5-1 goal lead in November 20th’s second leg, however, maybe it would have all been nothing more than white noise.
For now, the only thing standing in their way is a reeling New Zealand unit. They’ve done enough standing in their own way for too long now.
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