Mexico's 5-1 thrashing of New Zealand in the first leg of their World Cup playoff has El Tri all but through to Brazil, making Wednesday's second leg nothing more than a coronation for the embattled Mexicans. Sure, it's sad that the most talented team in CONCACAF's coronation comes in a playoff, but such is the case with El Tri this year and in the end, every spot in the World Cup is the same, no matter how the team got there.
New Zealand was never a match for Mexico in the first leg, playing as conservatively as possible with the hope of snatching a scoreless draw, only doing so while playing terrible defense. The result was a Mexican onslaught, made even worse by the fact that captain Winston Reid was out with an injury and Chris Wood and Ivan Vicelich picked up yellow cards that earned them suspensions for the second leg. If the four-goal deficit wasn't enough to bury the Kiwis, their impending absences certainly were.
With the tie all but won, Mexico will hope to continue building under new head coach Miguel Herrera, who has brought his 3-5-2 formation to El Tri. The transition has been rather simple thanks to Herrera's calling in 10 Club America players that he managers at the club level, but the strategy has undoubtedly worked. Now the question is who can stake a claim to their spot so when Herrera calls in European-based players in 2014, they will still start.
Oribe Peralta has made his case, out-performing Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez for more than a year now, but Carlos Pena, Raul Jimenez, Juan Carlos Venezuela and Moises Munoz, as well as a few others, will all have strong challengers for their spots come the new year and into Brazil. What better time to put their stamps on starting spots than in the match that clinches Mexico's place in the World Cup?
Match date/time: Wednesday, 7 p.m. local/1 a.m. ET
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ
TV: ESPN (U.S. English), UniMas (U.S. Spanish), Sky Sport 1 NZ (New Zealand)
Streaming: Watch ESPN (U.S.)