Time will stand still today in Mexico and New Zealand as the Kiwis take on El Tri in the first leg of the World Cup playoff in Mexico City.
For viewers in the United States, the match kicks off at 3:30pm ET on ESPN, Univision Deportes and WatchESPN.com.
Mexico: Moises Munoz; Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Rafa Marquez, Maza Rodriguez; Paul Aguilar, Juan Carlos Medina, Luis Montes, Carlos Pena, Miguel Layun; Oribe Peralta, Raul Jimenez.
New Zealand: Glen Moss, Tony Lochhead, Tommy Smith, Leo Bertos, Michael McGlinchey, Ivan Vicelich, Jeremy Brockie, Kosta Barbarouses, Chris Wood, Jeremy Christie, Andrew Durante.
Let’s be clear: Mexico is an absolute dumpster fire. For everyone else, El Tri is an entertaining mess. To the people who love Mexico, El Tri is a miserable dark cloud of embarrassment. Set aside, for a moment, that Mexico was pitifully and sorrowfully saved by the suddenly mighty USA, striking down Mexico’s superiority complex over their bitterest rival, and focus on the fact that a vocal portion of the Mexican media doesn’t even want their team to make it to Brazil, for fear of more disgrace.
Contrast that with the tears shed by the likes of Javier Hernandez when Mexico was saved by the bicycle kick against Panama, and now considered that Hernandez and every other Mexican player playing in Europe was left out of the team to face New Zealand.
That’s right: No European-based players for new Mexico manager Miguel Herrera, but he had no trouble calling up 10 Club America players. Club America happens to be the club that Herrera manages, and in any case, its another strange and potentially divisive move in the Mexico camp. Herrera is Mexico’s fourth manager in just five games. The last manager was fired after doing his job and getting El Tri to the playoff.
Herrera will try to beat New Zealand with just domestic players, which makes the task a little trickier and more intriguing.
The All Whites have been waiting for this inter-continental playoff for almost a year after wrapping up the top spot in Oceania. Because of New Zealand’s dearth of competitive games, it’s hard to know how good they are. The Kiwis’ team isn’t impressive on paper, but their 2010 World Cup performance was. New Zealand had the ironic record of being the only team not to lose in the tournament despite getting knocked out of the first round.