Mexico sealed their place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in style by downing New Zealand 4-2.
Their 5-1 win in the first leg at home meant it was always going to be near-impossible for the Kiwis to stage a comeback, and after a frenetic, end-to-end start, El Tri's quality began to shine through.
A first-half hat-trick from Oribe Peralta put the tie beyond the reach of Richard Herbert's men, and despite a late-goal flurry from the home side, New Zealand bows out second-best.
The home crowd turned up in their droves to cheer the All Whites on in style, and they found their voice early when Marco Rojas embarked on several dazzling dribbles through the centre of the pitch.
All that was lacking was the final twist, turn or pass, and New Zealand may have struck first, but Mexico's three central defenders held strong to ride out the early pressure.
It took the visitors 15 minutes to fashion a clear-cut chance, but they took the first one on offer: Carlos Pena slipped a delicate through-ball into the box for Peralta to finish, and his chipped effort took goalkeeper Glen Moss by surprise.
It was at that point the floodgates opened, as Raul Jimenez missed two one-v-ones either side of Peralta's next strike. El Tri galloped forward down the left and a low cross placed it on a platter for the in-form man. A near carbon-copy attack three minutes later led to a hat-trick-sealing strike.
Jimenez missed a third one-v-one as the half began to draw to a close, and Jeremy Brockie failed to take advantage of the visitors' profligacy as he fired a penalty straight into Moises Munoz's arms.
The second half started with a flash as chances were created at both ends, but after a similarly frantic opening period, Mexico managed to get hold of the ball and slow the tempo.
Sitting on a 3-0 (and 8-1) advantage, El Tri appeared eager to play out the remaining 40 minutes with consummate ease, but the snappy home side continued to make life difficult for their opponents in a committed, gritty display.
Coach Richard Herbert sent on more attacking options to force the issue and appease the home crowd, and Chris James finally delivered a goal when he expertly converted the Kiwis' second penalty of the day.
What followed was a crazy few minutes in which Rory Fallon and Carlos Pena both netted, making for an astonishing final scoreline of 4-2 (9-3 on aggregate).
Unlucky boys. Was always going to be tough against Mexico and their footballing pedigree. We never gave up though and showed great character— Tommy Smith (@tommysmith1990) November 20, 2013
Speaking through an interpreter, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera expressed his satisfaction at qualification, but stressed the requirement for change.
As per The Guardian:
I'm very happy ...(though) we have a lot of work to do. Going to the World Cup is totally different than playing a game and we have a lot of work to do before that.
It was very tough for us to make it. We have a lot of work to do on and off the field but we will mix both together and I think Mexico will do well in the World Cup.
Marco Rojas, B-
There wasn't a lot for the home side to cheer about in truth, but Rojas provided a spark of ingenuity in midfield that no one else could. A real talent.
Oribe Peralta, A
Didn't touch the ball much, but when he did, he scored goals. A 33-minute hat trick sealed the result for Mexico in style, and Peralta looks like a man on fire in front of the net.
Full Player Grades
|Juan Carlos Valenzuela||CB||B|
|Juan Carlos Medina||CM||C+|
|Aldo De Nigris||MID||C+|
For Mexico, the World Cup. For New Zealand, a new plan.