Mexico vs. New Zealand: First Leg Win Guarantees El Tri's Passage to World Cup

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Mexico vs. New Zealand: First Leg Win Guarantees El Tri's Passage to World Cup
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When New Zealand parked the bus and sunk into a defensive shell, Mexico scored. When New Zealand pressed to start the second half, Mexico scored. 

No matter what New Zealand did, Mexico scored.

El Tri won in convincing fashion at Azteca Stadium, 5-1, and virtually guaranteed they will qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. 

Of course, this result should come as no surprise. While Mexico were dreadful in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, they are still the No. 24 team in FIFA's rankings.

New Zealand? Well, you have to look quite a bit further down the list to find them at No. 79. If the World Cup was decided solely by those rankings, you could have an A-list and a B-list World Cup, all without New Zealand being invited. 

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Can the Kiwis recover from this deficit against Mexico? Um, no—it would be one of the greatest upsets of all time, in any sport, if New Zealand managed to beat Mexico 4-0 and advanced on away goals. Heck, it would be a pretty big shocker if New Zealand beat them at all. 

Obviously, with a World Cup berth at stake, El Tri can't afford to get too cute. Miguel Herrera should still bring a strong side to New Zealand in the return leg. Why tempt fate, right?

But Mexico didn't just win this game, they absolutely bossed it and could have easily had several more goals were it not for a brilliant performance from New Zealand's keeper Glen Moss.

They held a whopping 73 percent of possession. They took 21 shots (10 on goal) to New Zealand's three. They finally looked like the Mexico side we expected to see all along, and all it took was an extremely inferior opponent and their fourth coach in the past three months.

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Despite all but wrapping up a World Cup spot for next summer, these are still troubling times for El Tri. How will this team fare once it actually faces elite competition again? Can this team regain the swagger and toughness that seemingly was lost during CONCACAF's hexagonal stage?  

Those are big questions, but at least for one day, all is right in El Tri's world. The road to Brazil has been long and surprisingly arduous, but it finally looks as though Mexico have sealed their place in the World Cup.

 

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