By CAITLIN MURRAY
Despite all the theatrics and worry that Mexico might not qualify for the 2014 World Cup, it turned out to be an easy task with only New Zealand standing in their way. With a 4-2 victory over New Zealand early Wednesday, Mexico is booked for Brazil on a 9-3 aggregate score line.
Forward Oribe Peralta continued his thrashing of New Zealand in Wednesday’s second leg, scoring a hat trick by half time and nearly single-handedly delivering a final blow to the Kiwi’s World Cup hopes.
Peralta opened scoring in the 14th minute off a pass from Carlos Pena he chipped over the Kiwi goalkeeper. In the 28th minute, he took advantage of an exposed left flank off a cross from Miguel Layun. Four minutes later, Peralta was back to bury a slip pass from Pena.
New Zealand waged a comeback late in the second half, scoring in the 80th and 83rd minutes, but it was too little, too late. Pena capped the scoring off for Mexico in the 87th minute.
Mexico outshot their opponent, 22-13, and doubled them in shots on goal, 13-6.
Mexico had its share of troubles during its World Cup qualifying run, ousting three coaches and winning only two games over 10 CONCACAF matches. That forced the Mexicans to go against Oceania’s New Zealand for a spot.
But New Zealand was never really up to the task. Mexico dominated the All Whites in the first leg, 5-1, making Wednesday’s match seem like a perfunctory final step to Brazil.
Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera fielded a local team in a 5-3-2 formation for the New Zealand matches, opting not to call in players based in Europe and elsewhere. It paid off in the end, but it remains to be seen if Herrera will earn a longer-term contract and put an end to coach shuffling.
Herrera had been given the national team post on a two-game interim basis, but after digging Mexico out of a seemingly deep hole, his name should be at the top of the list when Mexico’s soccer federation meets to discuss the job next month.
Mexico snatched the 31st spot in the 32-team World Cup field. The final spot will be awarded Wednesday night when Jordan meets Uruguay.
What do you think about Mexico qualifying? Do you think Miguel Herrera should be named full-time coach of El Tri? Do you feel Mexico are good enough to move on from the group stage in Brazil?
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