Mexico have vowed to avoid complacency in today’s second leg of their World Cup intercontinental playoff against New Zealand, despite taking a 5-1 advantage into the match.
After a dismal qualifying campaign, El Tri finally hit form against the Oceania champions in front of 105,000 fans at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium last week.
Striker Oribe Peralta, who scored a brace, said Mexico had to maintain the pressure in Wellington today and could not afford to take the 79th-ranked New Zealanders lightly.
“I know that the score is large for us, but we have to try to increase the advantage in the second leg to get the ticket to Brazil 2014,” he said.
Former Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez said that because Mexico had to contest a playoff half a world away from home in order make the World Cup it was enough to stop Miguel Herrera’s men becoming overconfident.
After barely scraping into fourth position in CONCACAF qualifying, Marquez said the chance to qualify against New Zealand was a reprieve the Mexicans were determined not to squander.
“Without doubt it’s been difficult to see Mexico in a playoff, but we’re here and we’ve got to show our best and continue to work hard to ensure we get through,” he said.
The world’s 24th ranked team, regarded as a regional soccer powerhouse, won only two of their 10 CONCACAF qualifiers, scoring a paltry seven goals and shedding three managers along the way.
In turning around Mexico’s fortunes, Herrera shunned Europe-based stars such as Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez and Villareal’s Giovani dos Santos, opting instead for domestic players.
He is set to adopt the same policy in Wellington, where the All Whites are keen to make amends on home soil for a loss dubbed “the massacre at the Azteca” by New Zealand media.
The hosts have only ever reached two World Cups and were already huge underdogs going into the first leg against a soccer nation that has played in 14 of the last 19 tournaments.
Adding a 5-1 disadvantage makes the odds virtually impossible for New Zealand’s collection of journeymen and semiprofessionals, with online bookmaker TAB suspending betting on Mexico progressing.
Captain Tommy Smith said his team, who need a minimum 4-0 scoreline to achieve an unlikely upset, needed to attack from the offset, abandoning the negative tactics that cost them dearly in the first leg.
“I think that’s the only way forward really, we have to get an early goal and put them on the back foot as soon as possible,” he said. “With the result in Mexico, we felt like we let the fans down a little bit, so we just have to go all guns blazing and do as well as we can.”