Mexico seeks redemption against All Whites

Mexico will seek to put its nightmarish FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign behind it when it hosts New Zealand in the first leg of a intercontinental play-off on Thursday (AEDT).

The Mexicans are usually overwhelming favourites against smaller football nations like the All Whites at their imposing, 105,000-capacity Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

But El Tri won just once in five home games in the final qualifying round of the North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF) group, finishing fourth out of six teams.

While United States, Costa Rica and Honduras won direct tickets to Brazil, Mexico barely secured the play-off - a surprisingly poor showing for a powerhouse that was last absent from a World Cup in 1990.

The dismal results led the football federation to sack three managers in six weeks, finally handing the reins to Miguel Herrera in October for the two-game play-off.

The outspoken manager, who led Club America to a domestic title this year, voiced confidence that his squad can win at home and in the return leg in New Zealand on November 20.

"The first thing we said was that we shouldn't think about what happened in the past because that's something we can't resolve," Herrera said.

"We are going to win in Mexico and we will also seek to win over there (in New Zealand)."

Fans have soured on their team, with 60 per cent saying in a poll last month that Mexico didn't deserve to qualify.

Experts have warned that missing the World Cup would cost sponsors and broadcasters more than $US600 million ($641 million).

Herrera has shaken things up since taking over, calling up only players from the domestic league while leaving out European-based stars, including Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Villareal's Giovani dos Santos.

He said Mexico would seek to exploit New Zealand's loss of its captain, defender Winston Reid, who was ruled out of the play-off with an ankle injury suffered playing for his English Premier League club West Ham United.

But New Zealand striker Rory Fallon said the All Whites' familiarity with the intercontinental play-off system could be to their advantage.

Fallon famously scored the goal against Bahrain in the second leg of their play-off that sent New Zealand to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

This time, however, the All Whites face a much stronger side that played in 14 of the past 19 World Cups.

New Zealand has appeared in only two World Cups: Spain in 1982 and South Africa in 2010.

"Nobody in the world would have anticipated having Mexico in a play-off. We certainly didn't," said New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert.

Herbert said he thought Wednesday's match would be "one of the hardest, if not the hardest" New Zealand had ever faced.

Source AFP