[MEXICO-NEW ZEALAND]Mexico, which won just one of five Hexagonal matches at home in 2013, hopes it will have better luck under new coach, Miguel Herrera, its fourth coach in the last five World Cup 2014 qualifiers, at Azteca Stadium Wednesday against unfancied New Zealand in the first leg of their intercontinental playoff (ESPN, UniMas, Univision Deportes, 3:15 p.m. ET).
Herrera is fielding a team comprised entirely on domestic players who have been in concentración in Mexico for the last 10 days. Not that most of the players need any introduction to the new national team coach. Seven of the 11 starters for Wednesday's game play for Herrera at Club America.
In the new 5-3-2 formation Herrera has introduced, all the backline players play for America except captain Rafael Marquez, one of three players from Leon. The other player in the team Herrera announced will be starting Wednesday afternoon is Santos forward Oribe Peralta, the hero of Mexico's London Olympic gold-medal team a year ago.
The TriAmerica players are goalie Moises Munoz, defenders Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Francisco Rodriguez, Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar, midfielder Juan Carlos Medinaand forward Raul Jimenez, who produced Mexico's only home win of the Hexagonal with a bicycle kick late in the match against Panama.
The starting lineup is devoid of players who started in the 2-0 loss to the USA in September, though the one player familiar to Americans will be Marquez, whom Herrera praised for his leadership.
“The communication with Rafa has been extraordinary, he’s a natural leader,” said Herrera on Tuesday. “He’s a guy who talks on the field, leads and shouts at the right time.”
Mexico will need Marquez's experience as he is one of only three starters who were on Mexico's 2010 World Cup squad.
The All Whites, who reached the playoff with mostly narrow wins over the likes of the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Tahiti and Fiji, will be without their captain, West Ham United defender Winston Reid, who is injured.
Ivan Vicelich will serve as captain in Reid's place and will likely move from midfield to the backline to fill Reid's spot.
The All Whites have several players with U.S. ties. Tony Lochhead (UC Santa Barbara) and Craig Henderson (Dartmouth) played college soccer, while Jeremy Brockie played 15 games this summer for Toronto FC before returning to Wellington Phoenix, the New Zealand team that plays in Australia's A-League.
The rest of the squad includes players from England, Finland, France, Germany, Scotland and Sweden as well as players from the New Zealand league. It's been to Southern California twice for training in preparation for the series.
Oceania qualifying ended in March and New Zealand didn't have the Confederations Cup this year to use as a tuneup. Tahiti won the Oceania Nations Cup in 2012 after New Zealand failed to even reach the final.
Goalkeepers:Jose de Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca), Moises Munoz (Club America)
Defenders:Rafael Marquez (Leon), Francisco Rodriguez (Club America), Juan Carlos Valenzuela (Club America), Paul Aguilar (Club America), Miguel Layun (Club America), Edwin Hernandez (Leon), Adrian Aldrete (Club America), Miguel Herrera (Pachuca), Hiram Mier (Monterrey)
Midfielders:Rodrigo Salinas (Morelia), Juan Carlos Medina (Club America), Antonio Naelson 'Sinha' (Toluca), Carlos Pena (Leon), Luis Angel Mendoza (Club America), Luis Montes (Leon), Jesus Molina (Club America), Alonso Escoboza (Santos)
Forwards:Oribe Peralta (Santos), Raul Jimenez (Club America), Aldo de Nigris (Guadalajara).
New Zealand Roster:
Goalkeepers:Glen Moss (Wellington Phoenix), Jacob Spoonley (Wellington Phoenix), Tamati Williams (Auckland City).
Defenders:Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix), Tony Lochhead (unattached), Storm Roux (Central Coast Mariners), Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), Bill Tuiloma (Marseille), Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City).
Midfielders:Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix), Aaron Clapham (Canterbury United), Jeremy Christie (unattached), Craig Henderson (Mjallby), Chris James (Kuopion Palloseura), Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners).
Forwards:Kosta Barbarouses (Melbourne Victory), Jeremy Brockie (Wellington Phoenix), Rory Fallon (St. Johnstone), Marco Rojas (VfB Stuttgart), Shane Smeltz (Perth Glory), Chris Wood (Leicester City).