[MEXICO-NEW ZEALAND] New Zealand's All Whites were just what Mexico needed to break of its season-long slump at home. El Tri defeated New Zealand, 5-1, to all but clinch its sixth straight trip to the World Cup. The five goals were more than Mexico scored in the entire Hexagonal at Azteca Stadium.
Miguel Herrera, Mexico's fourth coach in the last five qualifiers, started seven players from his Mexican league club, Club America, and two Americanistas scored the key goals late in the first half to open up a 2-0 lead.
New Zealand spent almost the entire game on the defensive and was lucky to still be even at 0-0 at the half-hour mark. But its shaky defense never looked like it could hold out, and El Tri broke through on easy goals from Paul Aguilarin the 32nd minute and Raul Jimenez just before the break.
Within three minutes into the second half, 2012 Olympic gold-medal hero Oribe Peralta made it 3-0 and the series was effectively over. He added a second goal, and captain Rafael Marquezmade it 5-0 before Chris Jamesscored for New Zealand in the 85th minute.
The second leg will be played Nov. 20 in Wellington, meaning that Mexico will the 32nd and final team to clinch a berth in next summer's World Cup. For now, though, Herrera isn't taking any chances.
"We haven't won anything yet," Herrera said afterward. "Only one game. Over there, we will play as if this playoff was beginning, as if we were 0-0, as if it were only for one game."
-- The Mexico-New Zealand game was almost as lop-sided as Wednesday's other intercontinental playoff. Uruguay beat Jordan, 5-0, in the first leg of their series.