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New Zealand vs. Mexico: Keys for Each National Team in 2nd Leg of Playoff

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New Zealand vs. Mexico: Keys for Each National Team in 2nd Leg of Playoff
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Wednesday's World Cup playoff match between Mexico and New Zealand was particularly one sided in a 5-1 El Tri victory. 

New Zealand will need a major change of fortune next week in the second leg to pull the epic comeback and throw their name back into the hat for a Brazil bid.

While it seems like Mexico all but sealed their World Cup bid in the lopsided victory, anything can happen in the course of 90 minutes.

Here are the biggest keys for each national team heading into the second leg. 

 

Mexico

Hold On to Newfound Form

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You had to search far and wide to find a national team playing worse than Mexico throughout the summer. After poor performances in the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup, they nearly gave away their World Cup bid in the group stage.

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After being awarded a golden opportunity thanks to a U.S. victory over Panama, Mexico found themselves in this playoff. And they surely took advantage.

El Tri ripped off five goals, riding off the energy from Azteca Stadium and making it clear that the right choice was made by keeping Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez off the squad. 

It's awfully hard to find anything wrong with how Mexico played on Wednesday—21 shots, 73 percent possession and zero yellow cards to show for all of it. All El Tri need to do is hold on to that momentum as much as possible.

 

Enter Match with 0-0 Mindset

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It's no secret that this Mexico team is streaky, and that can work against you as much as it can help.

That's especially so when the squad records such an emphatic victory like the one on Wednesday that has undoubtedly—and perhaps rightfully—let thoughts of Brazil creep into everyone's minds.

It's a near impossibility that New Zealand would score the goals necessary to get back in it. Let's just throw that one out there. But Mexico can't have that mindset. 

New Zealand boasts a talented squad that was absolutely throttled by another talented squad thousands of miles from home. The same could very well happen to Mexico, if they're not mentally prepared. 

 

New Zealand

Control Possession

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One of the central keys to any team's victory chances in a soccer match is keeping possession. That made itself clear in Wednesday's debacle.

The Oceania nation only held the ball for 27 percent of the 5-1 loss. It's no coincidence that they recorded just three shots—none on goal.

Playing in front of their home fans, the New Zealanders should see a noticeable change in possession numbers that tend to tilt heavily in the home team's favor. 

But there's a difference between improving and controlling, which New Zealand will have to do from start to finish as they conceivably enter the game in a 4-0 deficit. 

 

Counter-Attack Off El Tri Offensive Sets

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While New Zealand will aim to control possession, that can't be the only way they generate goals. They must also come from the counter.

With Mexico racking up 10 shots on goal and 21 in total, there's no doubt that they boast an offense that likes to push the envelope and waste no time getting into attacking spaces. New Zealand can make them pay by getting after some counters.

Even though Mexico is known for quick offense, they'll certainly look to slow things down as they sport a sizable lead. New Zealand will need to constantly keep the offensive mindset present and attack any and all El Tri passes in the offensive zone. 

Just one interception could end up turning into that jump-start goal the New Zealanders will desperately need next week. 

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