Five Points: Mexico 5, New Zealand 1


(Image: Getty Images)

Mexico essentially booked its place in Brazil with an emphatic 5-1 victory over New Zealand on Wednesday afternoon.

El Tri finally emerged from its doldrums and swept aside the overwhelmed All Whites to remove any doubt from this potentially tricky tie. Interim boss Miguel Herrera relied on his Club América stalwarts and influential striker Oribe Peralta to cobble together the comprehensive display and render the return leg in Wellington moot.

How did Mexico cast aside its recent struggles and end New Zealand’s hopes of an upset? These five points offer an explanation of the resounding victory at the Azteca:

1. Patience yields production: Mexico probably could have and should have pushed the tempo a bit higher in the early stages, but it instead used its possession wisely and waited for New Zealand to crack. The composure offered a stark contrast to the desperate efforts earlier in the year and reaped significant dividends when the All Whites eventually crumbled.


(Image: Getty Images)

2. Get it wide, get it into the box: Herrera tasked Paul Aguilar and Miguel Layún with pushing high up the flanks and supplying Peralta and Raul Jiménez. Time and time again, they fulfilled their brief. Their willingness to operate in advanced locations pulled apart New Zealand’s shape horizontally (a 3-4-3 on paper that played like a 5-4-1 in practice) and sent them running into dangerous areas. Aguilar scored the first by continuing his run at the back post, while Layún provided the service on both Peralta goals from the left flank.

3. Rely on diagonals to stretch the field … : New Zealand conceded possession and sat deeply for much of this game, but it found itself exposed by Rafa Márquez’s penchant to hit diagonals from right to left. Márquez created the third and fourth goals by playing directly from back to front and switching the point of attack to provide space for Layún to serve into the penalty area. Credit Márquez for leaning on his considerable technical ability to exploit the weakness, but the All Whites really should not have allowed that sort of direct play to unlock its rearguard.


(Image: Getty Images)

4. … and take advantage of set pieces: Mexico took charge from dead ball situations – particularly on corner kicks – by ceding some ground to the All Whites and then constructing alternative routes to goal. The most profitable line of inquiry came from playing quickly. New Zealand’s zonal marking system reacted poorly to short corners: the visitors often adopted static positions to cope with developing and fluid situations. The lack of awareness allowed Mexico to curl dangerous balls into the penalty area and score the first and fifth goals from dead ball situations. It proved a rather jarring contradiction to the All Whites’ expected superiority in this department.

5. In this test of depth, Mexico emerged with a resounding victory: Both teams entered this tie at something less than full strength. Herrera left out his European-based players to build a cohesive unit over an extended period of time. New Zealand boss Ricki Herbert omitted injured captain Winston Reid (ankle) and relegated the recovering Marco Rojas and Shane Smeltz to the bench.

The gap between the middle of the two player pools showed in this game: Herrera plumped for in-form Liga MX players to carry the day, while Herbert relied on A-League standouts, out-of-contract players and New Zealand-based semi-professionals to fill his void. New Zealand needed the discipline, the fitness and the structure supplied by its stars to conjure up the Herculean performance required to snatch a result at the Azteca. On this day, the All Whites simply did not have the players to compete for 90 minutes. And it showed.


USA fans brave the hostile Azteca


A very large contingent of USA fans made the trip to the famed Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night to watch their country take on Mexico. The U.S. came away with an historic point, only their second in history against El Tri at Azteca in qualifying. A truly impressive feat.

There were many incredible images from the action on the pitch, but just as many taken of the brave supporters in the stands. Photojournalist Douglas Zimmerman captured every single moment from these (slightly crazy) fans on their journey in Mexico City. You definitely want to check these images out — very incredible shots.


After the final whistle in Tuesday night’s scoreless draw between Mexico and the United States at Azteca, USA fans were overjoyed with their team’s second-ever tie in a qualifier against El Tri at the famed stadium.

It was a tie, but it certainly felt like a win for the USA, who has only won once at Azteca against Mexico, and that was in a friendly, not a qualifier.

As they celebrated wildly, debris, beer and other unidentified liquids rained down on them. Luckily for the U.S. fans, they were surrounded by a small army of riot police — it would’ve gotten much uglier had the protection not been there.


Red, white and blue

The morning after. Record pasted a picture of the Olympic team on their front page, partially obscuring the score. The loss at the Azteca led the news, ahead of flooding in Veracruz. People reading the papers could be seen shaking their heads, cursing to themselves.

Landon Donovan told the press pack last night the win sent a message: “Don’t forget about us.”

And while it should be noted that one win in 25 attempts isn’t exactly a sterling average, you only needed to look around Mexico City this morning to see that the USA’s message was received. It was an unwelcome one.

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Green Lantern

Just imagine how hard your job would be if someone was shining a bright green laser in your face.

Tim Howard’s performance in the USMNT’s historic win at the Azteca is even more incredible knowing he had to deal with this all game.