What a difference a few days makes. After a poor performance against Russia, the All Whites came out fired up and put in a performance against Mexico, which was probably their best under the guidance of Anthony Hudson. Even though the All Whites didn’t get the result they wanted and probably deserved, there were a lot of positive signs to take from a positive and heated performance.
If we are being very critical, the All Whites should have won this game. Chris Wood, the All Whites skipper, could have had and probably should have had a hat-trick. On top of that Ryan Thomas hit the bar with a great effort in the 83rd minute.
When we look at the performance as an entire package, it was a major step up from what we have seen over the last month from the All Whites.
You got the sense early on the All Whites were going to be very physical and not give their much-respected opponents much time and space with a number of tough fouls.
The first half the All Whites dominated their much higher ranked opponents. The All Whites created a number of good opportunities. The first came from a free kick when McGlinchey put into the box, where Boxall flicked it on for a rampaging Tommy Smith, only just unable to get his toe to the ball from close range. From the New Zealand’s second corner, Smith got a header, which he forced Mexican goalkeeper Alfredo Talaverainto into a good save.
When the All Whites were put under pressure by Mexico in the first half they scrambled really well and forced Mexico to try to do something brilliant to score, which they couldn’t do. The next big chance falls to Wood in the 26th minute. After good play between Clayton Lewis and Marco Rojas, the ball came to McGlinchey who whipped it into Wood who was all alone in the penalty area and one on with the goalkeeper. The keeper came up with a great save to deny the big kiwi. There was a bit of controversy to this play as Mexico where not happy with New Zealand playing on, as their defender Carlos Salcedo was down in the penalty area. Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio was furious, charging over to Anthony Hudson to give him a massive spray. Mexico had a number of opportunities to kick the ball out but they didn’t, so they only had themselves to blame for putting themselves in that position.
All the All Whites good work in the first half did get rewarded. After some more nice build-up play from New Zealand, Mexico made a sloppy pass out of defense and Lewis pounced, threading a perfect ball through for Wood to thump it first time past a helpless Talavera. In first half, added time Wood had another great chance but his touch lets him down when he was again one on one with the goalkeeper.
In the second half, Mexico came out fired up knowing the pressure was on them to get themselves out of the mess they had created. Mexico played with a lot of intensity for the first ten to fifteen minutes of the second half. Mexico created a number of chances that New Zealand goalkeeper Marinovic dealt with well.
In the 52nd minute, after a nice flick on from Wood to Rojas, the ball ended up with Lewis. He played it instinctively over the top of the Mexico defense to put Wood one on one with the goalkeeper, but again he couldn’t convert trying to go around the keeper but the keeper denied Wood once again.
The lack of conviction and being lethal in front of goal would come back to hurt the All Whites.
The turning point in the game was when Mexico identified that there left winger Javier Aquino had a significant pace advantage on the All Whites right wingback Dane Ingham. This advantage caused havoc and Mexico created a number of chances down that side. This significant pace advantage led to both of Mexico’s goals.
Just a minute or so after Wood’s great chance, Mexico punished New Zealand. The ball came wide to Aquino, who nutmegged Ingham to put him into open space. The ball got played across the penalty area where it came to Raul Jimenez who turned and blasted it past Marinovic to draw Mexico level.
From here on New Zealand continued to fight and make life difficult for Mexico but it was the Mexico who were creating all the chances. Mexico continued to test Marinovic with shots and headers but it wasn’t until the 72nd minute when Aquino again got passed, Ingham. He cut it back to Oribe Peralta who blasted past Marinovic at his near post to put Mexico in front and give him his sixth goal against New Zealand in three matches.
New Zealand continued to push for an equalizer that they definitely deserved. New Zealand brought Bill Tuiloma on and his long throw caused consistent problems for Mexico with Tommy Smith getting the best chance with a header to equalize.
Mexico continued to create chances as New Zealand pushed forward, in particular to Juergen Damm. After a long throw from Tuiloma Mexico counter-attacked. The ball was played through to Damm who got himself one on one with the goalkeeper and blasted his shot over the bar when it was probably easier to score.
New Zealand’s last big chance came to Ryan Thomas in the 84th minute. Thomas found himself in a little bit of space on the edge of the penalty area. He curled his shot into the top right-hand corner but the ball smashed into the bar to deny him.
Tensions in what had been an already feisty encounter boiled over in added time. Thomas played a nice ball to Boxall who was in a lot of space. Mexico captain Diego Reyes pulled him back to stop the attack. Boxall lashed out at Hector Herrera who retaliated and shoved Boxall to the ground. Players from both teams came flying in from all angles in an ugly melee that resulted in a lengthy delay to the game.
So what can we learn from this game? We can clearly see how far the All Whites have come since Anthony Hudson has taken over. I now feel every game we go into we can compete and get something out of the game. The next step for the All Whites is taking the step up a winning these types of games. Too much recently the All Whites are in games and not coming away with the victory as in the case with Mexico and America a year ago and the recent friendlies against Belarus and Northern Ireland.
I feel the future is bright for the All Whites. We have our best every shot at taking down a big powerhouse of world football to qualify for the FIFA World Cup. Presuming the All Whites get past the Solomon Islands in the final of the Oceania qualifiers; we’ll play a team that plays very similar to Mexico, which is a positive.
The All Whites play their best when their opponents play nice tidy, technical football like Mexico, which is commonly known as tiki-taka. The reason the All Whites were probably always going to better against Mexico than Russia is that the All Whites can use a their high press to force mistakes, win the ball high up the pitch, play the passing football they like and also create chances from their opponents mistakes. The problem for the All Whites when they played Russia was that Russia where happy to go long and direct when they came under pressure so the All Whites couldn’t press them into mistakes. So the game came down to skills, which Russia executed better on the day. So when the All Whites play the fifth best team from South America, which is still too close to call but looking likely to be either Argentina, Chile or Uruguay with my money being on Uruguay. All of these teams play similar to Mexico. New Zealand will be able to press them and hopefully pick up the results required to qualify for their third World Cup.