Confederations Cup: All Whites defender Michael Boxall reckons it's all or nothing against Mexico
Michael Boxall believes the All Whites can take an "all or nothing" attitude into their second group game at the Confederations Cup against Mexico.
Hoping to upset hosts Russia in the tournament opener, New Zealand were comfortably outplayed in a 2-0 defeat in St Petersburg on Saturday (Sunday NZ time).
The 63rd-ranked home team handled the pressure superbly in front of president Vladimir Putin and a 50,000-strong home crowd at the sparkly new Krestovsky Stadium, proving far too polished for their 95th-ranked visitors.
The result, coming via a goal during the midway stages of either half, meant an already steep task for the Kiwi side became even steeper.
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The Anthony Hudson-coached outfit want to become the first senior New Zealand team to advance to the knockout stages of a major Fifa tournament in Russia and now need a serious change in fortunes for that to eventuate.
The All Whites almost certainly require at least a draw against the world No 17 Mexicans in Sochi in four days time but probably a win given their final group game is against European champions Portugal.
"If anything [tonight] means we've gotta go more balls out and go for the win," said defender Boxall, who was credited with an own goal after Russia hit the lead on the half-hour mark.
"It gives us a licence, it's really all or nothing. If we don't pick up three points our chances of getting through versus Portugal might not be that high."
An already unhappy night for Boxall, he also put his hand up for fluffing a clearance before Russia's second goal on 69 minutes, became even more unpleasant when he was hauled away after the match for drug testing.
The 28-year-old South African-based player said it capped off what had not been a disappointing night personally, but for the team as a whole.
New Zealand were frequently left scrambling in defence as the hosts pushed forward with urgency, while Kiwi captain Chris Wood and his attacking partners had to survive on scraps as Russia largely dominated possession and territory.
Midfielder and shining light Ryan Thomas did have a stinging shot well saved in the 71st-minute and Tommy Smith's header from the resulting corner was cleared off the line.
It was the home team, though, who created almost all the chances and probably should have been disappointed not to win by more.
Boxall admitted it "took the life out of us a bit" to gift the opening goal with a defensive error.
"With how we've gone against top sides recently, we were really optimistic about possibly surprising Russia but they were top class.
"It just took us too long to settle into the game and when we did have the opportunity to settle down and connect a few passes we rushed things.
"I sensed they were relieved [to take the lead] because they were feeling the pressure a bit. Once they had that lead it allowed them to play more freely, they started to move the ball very well."
Asked if he expected there to be team changes to face Mexico, Boxall said it was hard to say given most of the 14 who featured against Russia had not play to their best.
What he was sure about, however, was how important mentally regrouping would be after it had been so "disheartening" to not put in a satisfactory performance.
And while a good display in a 2-1 defeat to their next opponents in October last year gave them heart, Boxall said they needed to be much better with a key part of their game plan that they executed well in that fixture.
"When we did well against Mexico and the US (1-1 draw) last year it was because we won the ball pressing high up the pitch, connected a few passes and create things from there. That didn't happen tonight.
"Although it was a friendly, we prepared very well for that [October] game so it's just touching up a few things. Nailing that press and tidying up when we have the ball.
"When you play the host nation in the opening game of the tournament it's never going to be easy. Now that's out of the way, and we know more than most teams what to expect from Mexico."