Oribe Peralta scored a hat trick in the first half as Mexico cruised past New Zealand in the second leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff. The 4-2 victory allowed El Tri to punch their ticket to Brazil with a 9-3 aggregate triumph over the All Whites.
Winning the playoff in such dominant fashion was a sign of progress for Mexico. Every step of its journey through CONCACAF qualifying was a struggle as it lacked dominance at home and failed to generate a consistent attacking presence.
If not for a United States comeback against Panama on the final day of play in the Hex, Mexico would have been eliminated. Instead, El Tri's rival gave them a second chance to reach the World Cup, and they took full advantage.
The best news for Mexico is it now has a clean slate. All of those qualifying troubles and the need for a playoff can be forgotten as the focus shifts to building the best squad for Brazil.
It's a challenge that becomes even tougher given El Tri's success against New Zealand. The competition they will face in Brazil is going to be much tougher than the All Whites, but it's hard to ignore nine goals over two matches regardless of the opponent.
Manager Miguel Herrera opted for a domestic-based squad for the playoff, which meant stalwarts like Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos and Hector Moreno were left out. It was a risk, but the results speak for themselves.
By contrast, the full squad chosen for previous qualifiers was able to generate just seven goals in 10 matches during the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
Ultimately, it would be extremely difficult for Mexico to leave a player like Hernandez off the World Cup roster given his past success and ability to serve as a vital asset in Brazil. The same goes for many of the team's European-based veterans.
That said, the final roster will probably have a distinct domestic feel given the major uptick in form against New Zealand. Furthermore, players like Peralta, Paul Aguilar and Carlos Pena are likely to see increase roles moving forward given their success in the playoff.
If El Tri can strike the right balance between European-based and domestic-based players they could quickly develop into a dangerous sleeper in Brazil. They have the talent to survive the group stage and win a knockout round match. From there, it all comes down to matchups.
The biggest keys are Peralta maintaining his scorching form, Hernandez reemerging as an attacking force and improved play along the back line. If all three of those things fall into place before next summer, Mexico transforms from an afterthought to a side nobody wants to play.
Two wins over New Zealand isn't enough to think all of Mexico's issues are magically fixed. But the results do help El Tri build confidence at a crucial time.
After nearly being eliminated from World Cup contention, they caught a couple breaks and managed to qualify after all. Now, they can play with nothing-to-lose attitude, and it makes them dangerous.