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New Zealand vs. Mexico: Best and Worst Performers from World Cup Playoff

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 13: Rafael Marquez of Mexico celebrates with his teammates 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)
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Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

Mexico booked their spot at next year's World Cup on Wednesday after defeating New Zealand 4-2 in the second leg of their inter-confederation playoff.

Miguel Herrera's side had already taken a massive step toward Brazil 2014 thanks to their 5-1 triumph in Friday's first-leg meeting at the Estadio Azteca, and their attack was once again in lethal form this time around.

The result means that El Tri proceed as 9-3 victors on aggregate and it was thanks to the good work (and bad) of certain individuals that allowed the playoff to pan out in the fashion it did.

 

Best: Carlos Pena, Mexico

It's no secret that Mexico's style of play is largely based on full-throttle, attacking football, and Carlos Pena was one of those who stood head and shoulders above the rest in midweek.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 20: Carlos Pena of Mexico defends against Tommy Smith of New Zealand during leg 2 of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the New Zealand All Whites and Mexico at Westpac Stadium on November 20, 2013 in Wellington,
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The full-back-come-midfielder managed to craft two of Oribe Peralta's three goals in the opening 33 minutes and, albeit at the sacrifice of some defensive cover, was a constant source of ammunition for his team in the Kiwis' box.

That came before the 23-year-old went on to grab a goal of his own in the dying embers of the match, just when it looked as if the hosts might recover a degree of respect.

Pena's overall contribution helped put the tie safely beyond New Zealand, and he will be a name to watch in Brazil.

 

Worst: Jeremy Brockie, New Zealand

He may have started as one of New Zealand's most likely source of goals, but that reputation will be decidedly less secure after Jeremy Brockie failed to make any impact up front against Mexico.

The Wellington Phoenix forward had a heap of responsibility on his shoulders in ensuring New Zealand stayed within Mexican reach, but Brockie offered little going forward, and his first-half penalty miss was symbolic of the home team failing to convert opportunities.

The 26-year-old's confidence was clearly affected, too, considering Chris James stepped up to take their second-half spot kick and scored.

 

Best: Oribe Peralta, Mexico

There's difficulty in looking past the hat-trick performance of Oribe Peralta, who on Wednesday converted every little scrap that was flung his way. The Kiwis certainly won't forget him.

The Santos Laguna man isn't likely to come up against many defences more brittle than New Zealand's in his international career, but Peralta's poaching skills were on full display in Wellington, his dinked opener being the best of the three.

Mexico knew early goals were the best route to killing off any thoughts of a miraculous home fightback in the second leg, and Peralta scored three times inside 33 minutes to cement El Tri's place in Brazil. 

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