MEXICO CITY, Nov 14: Mexico took a massive step toward next year’s World Cup finals, shaking off recent bad form to pummel New Zealand 5-1 in the first-leg of their intercontinental qualifying playoff on Wednesday.
After scoring just three goals in their last four CONCACAF qualifiers at home, Mexico rediscovered their scoring touch as they outclassed the Oceania champions at the Azteca Stadium.
Playing in Mexico City’s imposing Azteca Stadium, El Tri delivered on their manager Miguel Herrera’s pre-game call to take a big goal advantage into the second-leg in New Zealand on November 20.
Paul Aguilar put Mexico ahead in the 32nd minute and Raul Jimenez made 2-0 before the break. Oribe Peralta added two more in the second-half before Rafael Marquez scored in the 84th and Chris James grabbed a consolation goal for New Zealand a minute later.
“The team were sensational, I’m very happy because the lads did a phenomenal job, they gave their all,” said Herrera. “We needed an aggressive and dynamic team with lots of determination because we needed to win the match.”
Mexico scored only seven goals in 10 qualifying games, but broke through under new coach Herrera.Herrera, the fourth Mexico coach in two months, used only players based in the national league, omitting stars like Javier Hernandez of Manchester United.
That focus on domestic league players was partly to deal with Mexico City’s altitude of 2,240 metres (7,350 feet), which seemed to fatigue New Zealand.
“The public probably saw the Mexican team that they are used to seeing ... and they really delivered tonight and I think we contributed to helping that,” said New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert, adding that the team struggled in areas where “normally we are very strong”.
“We’re going to make it as tough as we can in Wellington,” he said.
It was the second one-sided victory of the day. Earlier, Uruguay hammered Jordan 5-0 away in another intercontinental playoff for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Paris St Germain striker Edinson Cavani scored a brilliant free-kick and had a hand in two other goals as the South Americans’ firepower proved too much for their Asian opponents, ranked 64 places behind them in 70th by FIFA.—Agencies