Mexico vs New Zealand – Wednesday 19:00BST/20:00 CEST – Fisht Stadium – Sochi, Russia.
Mexico’s 2-2 draw against Portugal means that El Tri have started the tournament just the way they wanted to. The match against Portugal, in fact, showed that the Mexican squad will have to be taken seriously when it comes to who could win the tournament at the end.
The CONCACAF champions lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, which caused frequent problems for Portugal’s defence. At the same time head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio decided to leave the experienced Ráfael Marquez on the bench for the entire 90 minutes. Whether the 38-year-old would have made a difference for Mexico’s at times shaky looking defence remains doubtful, however. What is certain, however, is that Mexico did not always look solid in the back against Portugal.
Centred on future Roma defender Hector Moreno and Espanyol’s Diego Reyes El Tri tended to focus too much on superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, which created room for the likes of Ricardo Quaresma, who scored the opening goal. The respect towards Cristiano Ronaldo was visible throughout the 90 minutes. Perhaps with a more balanced approach, El Tri could have walked away with the three points.
At the same time, the match highlighted that Mexico are more than capable of going toe to toe with Europe’s elite. While Portugal’s Cedric scored, late Mexico never gave up and got the deserved draw when Moreno equalised in the dying moments of the game. The result now will give Mexico the confidence when they meet New Zealand on Wednesday at the Sochi Olympic Park.
New Zealand are the significant underdogs of this Group A and Mexico will, therefore, be expected to win this match by a large margin. But the Kiwis showed against Russia that they could be an uncomfortable opponent. Playing in a 5-3-2 formation New Zealand always appeared disciplined even after they went down 1-0 against the Sbornaya.
New Zealand had the dubious honour of enduring speeches and the opening ceremony ahead of the match against Russia on Saturday. Anthony Hudson later commented that it was challenging for his squad to stay focused ahead of the game and applauded his team for sticking to the game plan. Tactical New Zealand performed well, but it was evident that the team struggled to keep pace with the Sbornaya. Now on Wednesday, they will face an even tougher opponent as Mexico, together with Portugal, are favoured to finish top of the group.
Mexico has come to this tournament with the clear goal to reach at least the semi-final and everything, but three points against New Zealand would be a major disaster. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine Mexico failing to win this match convincingly.
Mexico vs New Zealand – Players to look out for:
Hector Moreno #15 Mexico
Hector Moreno featured prominently in our recent Golazo Podcast. The 29-year-old centre-back earned himself a transfer from PSV Eindhoven to Roma before the Confederations Cup kicked off. He then started the tournament rescuing a late draw against Portugal with a powerful header in the dying moments of the game. With Marquez nearing retirement Moreno has become the most experienced defender in Mexico’s starting eleven these days. His experience will now be critical when it comes to stopping New Zealand’s powerful striker Chris Wood. At 195cm the Leeds United frontman could cause some trouble to a Mexican defence that lack height, but Moreno who is used to playing against Europe’s elite should be more than capable of handling the forward, who plays in England’s Championship.
Chris Wood #9 New Zealand
Chris Wood is New Zealand’s biggest asset. The striker from Leeds United managed 27 goals in 44 games in England’s Championship last season. At 195cm and 95kg Chris Wood is a force of nature, and the striker has done extremely well competing in the tough English Championship. It will be interesting to see how Russia’s relatively inexperienced defence will handle Wood, who is used to playing the physical game in England. Finally, the striker will want to use the tournament to present him on the bigger stage, because following his excellent season Wood has already played himself in the notebooks of bigger clubs in England and abroad.
Mexico vs New Zealand – Match Stats
- Mexico have played New Zealand on six occasions. Their record is W5 D0 L1.
- Mexico’s only defeat came in 1980 when they lost an international friendly 4-0 to New Zealand.
- The two countries last faced each other in a competitive fixture in 2013 when they played a playoff for the final spot in the 2014 World Cup.
- Mexico defeated New Zealand 5-1 and 2-4 to advance to Brazil.
- The two faced each other in October for an international friendly and Mexico won the match 2-1.
Prediction: Mexico vs New Zealand 3-0
Mexico vs New Zealand – Possible Lineups
Ochoa – Salcedo, Reyes, Moreno, Layun – J. dos Santos, Herrera, Guardado – Vela, Jimenez, Chicharito
Coach: Juan Carlos Osorio
Marinovic – Colvey, Smith, Durante, Boxall, Wynne – McGlinchey, Rojas, Thomas – Wood, Barbarouses
Coach: Anthony Hudson
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.