Confederations Cup: Mexico vs New Zealand

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Tom Bell brings you the ins and outs of a classic game of two halves between Mexico and New Zealand.

What Happened

Mexico spent the first half counting sheep (ha!) before waking up in the second to pull off a 2-1 come from behind victory over a gallant but out classed New Zealand side.

It could have been Mexico underestimating their opponents, New Zealand coming out hot or probably a mix of both but the Kiwis completely disrupted Mexico with their pressing in the first half.

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This created a scrappy contest light up briefly by an otherwise absent Giovanni Dos Santos.

Then came our first moment of real controversy as, during a New Zealand attack, Mexican defender Carlos Salcedo went down with an injury that eventually required him to be stretchered off. However, this happened with the ball still in play and he ended up playing Chris Wood onside only for Mexican keeper Alfredo Talavera to make a really good save. This was all followed up by Mexican coach Juan Carlos Osorio unleashing his fury at the New Zealand bench.

It was the big Kiwi striker who would dominate the rest of the half though as he missed two good chances either side of the opening goal. New Zealand pounced on some supremely sloppy Mexican defending and Wood was played through before finishing past Talavera.

The change in Mexico after half time was stark and they dominated the first 20 minutes with Marco Fabian and Javier Aquino looking incredibly lively. It was the aforementioned Aquino whose nutmeg on the outclassed Dane Ingham pulled apart the New Zealand defence and when the ball eventually fell to Raul Jimenez, the number 9 had the space to shoot and equalise for Mexico.

19 minutes later it was Aquino leaving Ingham in his wake once again but this time the Tigers man found the feet of Oribe Peralta himself and Peralta finished with a mix of power and placement to put Mexico 2-1 up with 17 minutes left.

The final 10 minutes descended into some brilliant, end-to-end chaos as Ryan Thomas’ curling effort hit the crossbar for New Zealand before Tommy Smith made a desperate goal line clearance as Jimenez looked certain to score from another Aquino cross.

Added time descended even deeper into chaos as a professional foul from Diego Reyes on Michael Boxall saw Ryan Thomas lose his head at Hector Herrera before seemingly every player on the pitch was involved in a scuffle which definitely saw some arms and heads thrown about. Despite a long period of VAR analysis, only a yellow card was issued to Reyes and that was about it. Mexico closing out the 2-1 victory.

Stand Out Performances

Javier Aquino was destroyer in chief for Mexico today as he played key roles in both goals and would have had another assist if not for Smith’s goal line clearance. Tormented fullback Dane Ingham all day and didn’t let much go the other way. Top game from the wingback.

It’s not easy being a classic striker in this New Zealand side, against big teams that is, but apart from his finishing, Chris Wood played the role to perfection with his movement, timing and hold up play. Could have had his side two or three up at half time but an excellent performance otherwise.

Talking Points

The first big talking point came in the first half as an injury to Carlos Salcedo saw him go down in his own penalty area only for him to then be playing Chris Wood onside who attempted to score only for Talavera to make the save. Mexico coach Osorio was apoplectic and we’ve definitely seen coaches sent to the stands for less than what he yelled at the New Zealand bench.

The second came in second half added time when Diego Reyes pulled back the shirt of the advancing Michael Boxall before Ryan Thomas took exception to whatever Hector Herrera had done, which didn’t seem to be much. Before you knew it players were streaming in with arms and heads everywhere. Then, despite a protracted period spent watching the VAR and some definite head butts having happened, the referee gave just the original yellow to Reyes and it was back to it.

What It Means

New Zealand are out but will take great encouragement from their first half and be reassured of their ability to trouble good teams. For Mexico, they now need just a draw against Russia to go through although the performance may worry them.

Needs Work

Mexico made eight changes to the starting side that drew with Portugal and they sure looked it in that first half. They were sloppy in defence, rushed with the ball and unable to string any meaning passages of play together. They improved considerably in the second half but they won’t have much confidence in their depth.

As far as New Zealand are concerned, their drop off in the first 15 minutes of the second half was a real disappointment after the intensity they brought in the first 45. If they can iron out those poor patches, or at least minimise their impact, they could cause some serious upsets at future tournaments.

What’s Next

Mexico play Russia on Sunday morning EST while New Zealand and the Kiwi Messi will take on Portugal and the actual Ronaldo at the same time.

Goal of the Day

I’m a big believer that context really makes sport great and Chris Wood’s 42nd minute strike to put New Zealand ahead was great for that reason. The build featured a good through ball and a lot of scrappy defending but after a good finish from the Leeds striker, New Zealand had scored for the first time in their last five confederations cup matches. That record stretching back to 2003 and a Raf de Gregorio goal against Colombia.

Miss of the Day

1-0 up and with half time almost upon the teams Chris Wood received a ball over the top and looked in a great position to bag his second goal in three minutes. Unfortunately his touch took him sideways, allowing the Mexican defenders to catch up and force him to hit a tame effort which they blocked. A better touch there and the second half would’ve been a different ball game.

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