Mexico thumped New Zealand 5-1 in the first leg of their qualifying playoff to take a massive step towards a place in next year’s World Cup finals.
After scoring just three goals in their last four CONCACAF qualifiers at home, Mexico rediscovered their scoring touch as they outclassed the Oceania champions at the Azteca Stadium.
“The team were sensational, I’m very happy because the lads did a phenomenal job, they gave their all,” said Mexico coach Miguel Herrera in Mexico City on Wednesday.
“We needed an aggressive and dynamic team with lots of determination because we needed to win the match.”
Defender Paul Aguilar opened the scoring for ‘El Tri’ in the 32nd minute and Raul Jimenez quickly added a second to give Mexico a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Striker Oribe Peralta scored twice in the second half and Rafael Marquez added the fifth.
Under the guidance of Herrera, their fourth coach of the qualifying campaign, Mexico had no problems overcoming New Zealand, who allowed the Mexicans to dictate the match after adopting a defensive approach.
Chris James grabbed a late consolation goal for New Zealand who will host the return leg in Wellington on November 20 with the winners advancing to next year’s tournament in Brazil.
“The worst we can do is think it’s settled,” Peralta said.
“We must win there and we still have a lot to improve. We’re a small step from getting what we’re looking for.”
Mexico have qualified for every World Cup since they hosted the finals in 1986, with the exception of 1990 when they were banned by FIFA after fielding over-age players in a youth tournament, but almost failed this time.