[NEW ZEALAND-MEXICO] Mexico will probably take fourth place in the Hexagonal every time if that means playing New Zealand in the playoffs. Thanks to an Oribe Peralta hat trick, El Tri needed only 123 minutes to score more goals (8) against the All Whites than it did in the 10-game Hexagonal (7) en route to a 4-2 win that clinched the intercontinental playoff series, 9-3, on aggregate.
At the beginning of the year, Wellington's Westpac Stadium was the last place where Mexico fans thought El Tri would clinch its sixth straight trip to the World Cup. But after sweeping all six games at the 2011 Gold Cup and all six games in the semifinal round of World Cup in 2012, Mexico cracked. El Tri only made the intercontinental playoffs because Panama could not hold on to a 2-1 lead over the USA in stoppage time, and it used four coaches in the last three months.
The series against New Zealand was all but wrapped a week earlier in Mexico City, where Mexico won, 5-1. And it was quickly 8-1 on aggregate as Peralta, the 2012 hero of Mexico's Olympic gold-medal team, scored three goals in the first 33 minutes of the second leg.
Former Toronto FC forward Jeremy Brockie missed a penalty kick late in the first half, but he made up for it with the second of two goals two minutes apart -- the first was scored by Chris James from the penalty spot -- as the All Whites pulled to within 3-2 in the 83rd minute to the delight of the sellout crowd of 37,000 fans. But midfielder Carlos Pena, who had set up two of the Peralta goals, clinched the Mexico win moments later.
The two wins against New Zealand matched Mexico's total in the entire Hexagonal and gave Coach Miguel Herrera more wins than any of the three coaches he succeeded in the Hexagonal. (Jose Manuel de la Torre and Victor Manuel Vucetich each won one game, while Luis Fernando Tena lost his only game, 2-0, to the United States.)
The Mexican federation will meet Dec. 2 to name El Tri's coach for the World Cup, though Herrera, who was borrowed from Club America for the playoff series, is expected to keep his job.
Herrera didn't recall any of Mexico's European-based stars for the playoff series, though that will surely change for the finals.
Preparations will begin in January, and ESPN's John Sutcliffe reported during Wednesday's broadcast that one of Mexico's friendly games will be against the USA in Los Angeles in January.