Mexico’s poor Concacaf qualifying campaign, in which it finished fourth behind Honduras, Costa Rica and the United States, has been well-documented, and the Mexican soccer federation (FMF) has gone to extraordinary measures to get the national team to Brazil, bringing in Miguel Herrera to handle El Tri’s last chance: the two-game intercontinental playoff series against New Zealand that begins in Mexico City on Wednesday afternoon.
Herrera, a Liga MX veteran coach who is currently coach of Club America, has famously opted not to call up any European-based players for the crucial series, leaving out the likes of Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez and Villarreal’s Giovani Dos Santos. Instead, Herrera wants to deploy players that are comfortable performing at Azteca Stadium’s 7,350 feet above sea level. The 100,000-capacity home support should help, too.
"We'll do it here," Herrera said during his pre-game press conference. "I'm sure that Mexico will get the advantage so we can relax in Wellington and finish the job. This is the idea. To take care of business at home. That's why we have a local team," he added. "We have players who are used to playing at this altitude."
Herrera, the fourth coach hired by Mexico in a span of six weeks as it struggled to qualify, insisted that the past is not worth dwelling on. "We are in the process of leaving behind the past and looking toward the great opportunity we have," he said. "We are not overconfident. An excess of confidence would make us think our rival is a step below us."