Mexico vs. New Zealand: 2014 World Cup Playoff Dates, Schedule and Preview

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 10: Giovani dos Santos #10 of the Mexico Men's National Team in action against the United States at Columbus Crew Stadium on September 10, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

By the skin of their teeth.

That's how Mexico managed to advance to a World Cup playoff against New Zealand on Tuesday night despite losing to Costa Rica, 2-1. That's because—in an unbelievable slice of irony—their northern rivals, the United States, managed to beat Panama 3-2, scoring two goals in stoppage time. 

Now, Mexico will face New Zealand in a home-and-away playoff in November, with a trip to Brazil next summer on the line. Below, you'll find everything you need to know about the upcoming fixtures. 

 

Key Storylines

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 22: Javier Hernandez of Mexico in action during the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Group A match between Japan and Mexico at Estadio Mineirao on June 22, 2013 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Get
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Javier Hernandez didn't score in his final 10 World Cup qualifiers. For Mexico's best player, it's a drought that will have to come to a close against New Zealand. 

Of course, it doesn't help that Hernandez isn't the first name on Manchester United's team sheet. He's only made two starts and five total appearances for the club, so it may be hard to end his slump on the club level. 

On SportsCenter Wednesday morning, analyst Alexi Lalas said what a lot of people were thinking about this particular Mexico team—they're soft. The skill is there, but there is at times a tentativeness, a lack of forcefulness, that seems very unfamiliar for an El Tri team. 

It's that lack of punch that has to make New Zealand think they'll have a fighting chance. The All Whites will be major underdogs in this one, but Mexico was the favorite to win the hexagonal and managed just seven goals in 10 contests.

Given that rather shocking stat, New Zealand will be just fine with their odds. And remember, Mexico was rather pedestrian at their "fortress" in Mexico City, Azteca Stadium, winning just once in five matches there during hex play. 

 

Prediction

Mexico has a month to figure things out after losing to Costa Rica with their World Cup hopes on the line. The problem for New Zealand is that, even if El Tri can't figure everything out, the Mexicans are still the vastly superior side.

Mexico doesn't look like a team that will make any noise in Brazil next summer, but on sheer ability alone, they should get there. Mexico wins this series on aggregate, 3-1. 

 

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