Whether or not Mexico deserved to find itself with one last chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup no longer matters at this point. On Wednesday, Mexico will host New Zealand in the first leg of their qualifying playoff for a spot to be a part of the World Cup in Brazil next summer.
The fact of the matter is that given that the first leg of the two-legged playoff will be played at the Azteca Stadium, it is crucial for Mexico to do everything necessary to come out of the first 90 minutes of this 180-minute affair holding a substantial lead in order to make the game in Auckland on November 20 a more manageable game.
Looking at the game to be played on Wednesday afternoon, there is no reason why Mexico cannot accomplish this despite their play during the final qualifying round.
What are the advantages that Mexico must take advantage of? The first is the fact that the game will be played during the afternoon in Mexico City, a city where the elevation is 7, 380 feet above sea level. The fact that Mexico have been training for the better part of close to three weeks at their training camp on the outskirts of Mexico City means that none of the players will not be able to handle playing at that time and altitude, a reason cited by interim coach Miguel Herrera for not calling European-based players for these games.
The team Herrera has called up for the games against New Zealand has been working under his direction for about three weeks and in that time, they have played three friendlies, the most notable one being a 4-2 win over Finland. This gives Mexico an advantage of having had time to properly prepare for the qualifying playoff games as opposed to New Zealand, who did not get a chance to work with a full squad until late Sunday, given all of the travel their various players had to undertake. New Zealand will also be without the services of their best player, Winston Reid, because of a knee injury.
The third advantage Mexico have is the fact that they are playing at home. Even though they have struggled all throughout the final qualifying campaign by only having won one of their five games, the fact of the matter is that they have a chance to make their home-field advantage count.
And how do they go about doing that? Simple — they must come out and score within the first 20 minutes of the game. Scoring early will help not only lift some of tension Mexico will be playing under but would go a long way towards getting the crowd to become a factor in the game, something that has been lacking during Mexico’s qualifying campaign.
The fact of the matter is that Mexico have the better team with the better coach on paper over New Zealand. Given the advantages they have and the fact that the second game will be played in Auckland in a week, Mexico need to win by a scoreline of 3-0 on Wednesday afternoon in order to make the return leg a much more manageable affair and also allow them to approach that game with a positive mindset.