Mexico trains at the Estadio Azteca in preparation for its Intercontinental Playoff match against New Zealand on November 13, 2013. (Photo: Mexsport)
MEXICO CITY – Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera is asking his players to spare no effort in the first leg of the Intercontinental Playoff against visiting New Zealand on Wednesday at the Estadio Azteca. As the final opportunity to qualify for next year’s World Cup approaches, securing a definitive home victory is seen as essential ahead of the November 20 return match in Wellington.
“Not allowing any goals is very important, since the away goals can make the difference, but more important is to get the advantage and hope it is a decisive advantage,” said Herrera. “We are looking to get the result from the opening whistle without becoming desperate since it is 180 minutes and we are all very focused.
“We know the times and the moments of when we need to do things.”
Herrera pointed out that the team has worked very hard -- especially on the defensive end -- in preparation for meeting the All-Whites.
“The performance is keeping me calm,” continued the former Atlante star. “We have worked. We continue correcting. We have three days to improve some details on game-like situations, but we have also improved on the defensive end, on pressuring the opponent and trying to not allow them time to think and that is the idea we want to carry out on Wednesday.”
Additionally, Herrera noted an injury that New Zealand defender and captain Winston Reid suffered last week in training with his club, England’s West Ham United. At the 2010 World Cup, Reid equalized in stoppage time of a 1-1 draw with Slovakia. That absence, in the 45-year-old’s opinion, will be pivotal.
“What New Zeaand does best is the aerial game and they use their central striker alot,” Herrera concluded. “They are very tall, but they have lost a lot of strength in defense with the loss of their captain and leader so, obviously, we will try to take advantage of that.”
New Zealand has a 9-1-1 record in qualifying for Brazil 2014, with the lone loss coming at home against New Caledonia (2-0) on June 8, 2012. On the road, the Oceania survivor went a perfect 6-0-0, a mark that will peak the CONCACAF power’s interest.