Confederations Cup: Class and quality of familiar foes Mexico presents stern challenge
Game two at the Confederations Cup pits the All Whites against Mexico.
After starting their campaign with a 2-0 loss to hosts Russia, Oceania champions New Zealand are expected to be in for an even sterner test against their North and Central American counterparts, who drew 2-2 with Portugal in their first match of the tournament.
The respective world rankings, Mexico are 17th and the Kiwi side are 95th, also indicates Anthony Hudson's squad are faced with a stiff task.
Ahead of the match being played in Sochi on Wednesday night (Thursday morning NZ time), Stuff puts the microscope on the team known as El Tri.
* Australia make Germany sweat
* 'All or nothing' for NZ vs Mexico
* Hudson: Loss 'slightly deflating'
* All Whites outplayed by Russia
* NZ v Russia: Player ratings
* Solomon Islands await AWs
WE MET AGAIN
Easily the All Whites most familiar opponent in their group, Mexico are also the opposition New Zealand are most familiar with outside of the Oceania confederation in recent times. The two teams have met five times since 2010, Mexico prevailing on each occasion. The biggest of those matches were part of the World Cup playoff tie in 2013 (Mexico winning 5-1 at home and 4-2 in Wellington), while the latest was a 2-1 result in Nashville, Tennessee in October last year. The first and only other time they met was in Auckland in 1980, the hosts romping to a 4-0 victory.
HISTORY OF SUCCESS
Mexico are a constant presence at major Fifa tournaments and always worthy of consideration as a contender. They have been to 15 World Cups, including every one since 1994, with a best result of quarterfinalists two times. This will be their seventh Confederations Cup, a title they won as hosts in 1999, with semifinal appearances in 1995 and 2005. New Zealand have been to two World Cups and are taking part in this tournament for the fourth time, with a place in the knockout stages yet to come their way.
WINNING IS A HABIT
Since their Colombian coach Juan Carlos Osorio took charge in October, 2015, Mexico have a formidable record of 17 wins, three draws and just two losses. Since their 2-1 victory over New Zealand nine months ago, they have played 12 times for eight wins, three draws and just one loss, a 2-1 defeat at the end of May to 18th-ranked Croatia. After starting their tournament preparations with that loss, Mexico overcame Ireland (3-1) in another friendly before beating Honduras (3-0) and battling to a draw with the USA (1-1) in a pair of World Cup qualifiers to remain top of the six-team Concacaf final qualifying group with half the matches played. On Monday against European champions Portugal, they twice came from behind, eventually earning a draw with a 91st-minute goal.
QUALITY TO BURN
Given the above, it will not come as a surprise that the Mexican squad is stacked with world-class players. Their forward line oozes class, led by Bayer Leverkusen and former Manchester United and Real Madrid star Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who is the face of the team and scored against Croatia to become the country's all-time leading scorer. Carlos Vela is another to be extremely wary of, while Kiwi fans will be very familiar with Oribe Peralta, who scored five goals in the 2013 World Cup playoff tie. In midfield, Dutch-based veteran Andres Guarado pulls the strings with the likes of Hector Herrera and Marco Fabian others to keep a close eye on. All of that attacking threat is backed up by a formidable defensive unit, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno and Diego Reyes the key men in a group which also includes 38-year-old stalwart Rafael Marquez.
WHAT TO EXPECT
While New Zealand will take confidence from playing well and pushing Mexico in October, it is worth nothing several of their European stars did not feature and just six of that 23-man squad were selected for this tournament. The All Whites will also be without captain and key defender Winston Reid from that friendly, although they have gained midfield whizz Ryan Thomas. Mexico are likely to line-up differently than a more defensively-minded Russia, with four at the back, an extra man in midfield and a triangle of forwards. The Concacaf champs also have much different strengths to that of the tournament hosts. Pace, skill and attacking flair are the traditional hallmarks of Mexican football.