New Zealand vs. Mexico: Highlighting Impact Players in World Cup 2014 Playoff

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent INovember 18, 2013

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 13: Oribe Peralta of Mexico celebrate during a match between Mexico and New Zealand as part of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at Azteca Stadium on November 13, 2013 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

Mexico is 90 minutes away from securing a place in next summer's World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Thanks to a dominant performance from El Tri in Mexico City in the first leg of their playoff with New Zealand, Miguel Herrera's squad will take a 5-1 aggregate lead with them to Wellington on Wednesday.

But given how turbulent Mexico's World Cup qualifying campaign has been thus far, you can expect they'll bring their A-game for this week's decisive leg.

With kickoff fast approaching, let's take a closer look at three impact players worth following closely.


Oribe Peralta, Mexico

After scoring twice against New Zealand last week, veteran forward Oribe Peralta now has a dozen international goals to his name. 

Credit: ESPN

The 29-year-old has scored eight of those goals since the start of 2013, emerging as one of Mexico's most productive strikers during the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign.

Peralta has showcased his nose for goal with Santos Laguna in Liga MX since 2006, developing into the club's top scoring threat. Whether he's directing a header exactly where it needs to be to beat the keeper or making a strong run into the box, Peralta is lethal around the box and is arguably the top impact player set to take the pitch. 


Chris James, New Zealand

There aren't many scoring threats set to suit up for the All Whites on Wednesday, but Chris James proved that he could find a crack in El Tri's defense and exploit it in the first leg. 

Although it wasn't a spectacular goal by any means, James' strike proves that effort pays off and that it helps to have great anticipation. Both traits stand out when talking about the 26-year-old central midfielder.

Let's face it: There aren't many game-changing talents at New Zealand's disposal. But keep an eye out for James, who was once a prolific goalscorer during his time with the country's Under-20 squad a few years back.


Raul Jimenez, Mexico

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 04:  Raul Jimenez of Mexico leaps for the ball during the Men's Football Quarter Final match between  Mexico and Senegal, on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium on August 4, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo b
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Another Mexican striker capable of breaking Wednesday's game wide open is Raul Jimenez, who appears to be gaining confidence with each and every appearance for El Tri since breaking out at the CONCACAF Gold Cup this past summer.

The 22-year-old now has four international goals in his pocket after scoring in the first leg against the All Whites.

Jimenez's most recent goal came on a set piece and was made possible by some poor marking from New Zealand's defenders. But make no mistake, the up-and-coming star is capable of scoring in spectacular fashion. 

This unforgettable goal against Panama last month turned out to be the decisive goal for Mexico and could not have come at a better time. Plays like that one evidence Jimenez's ability to change the course of a match in an instant.


Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Follow _Pat_Clarke on Twitter