New Zealand refuse to give up on World Cup dream

Captain Smith knows team face tough task to overturn 5-1 deficit against Mexico

Image Credit: REUTERS
Mexico's Oribe Peralta fights for the ball with New Zealand's captain Tommy Smith (L) during their 2014 World Cup qualifying playoff first leg soccer match at Azteca stadium in Mexico City November 13, 2013.
Gulf News

Wellington, New Zealand: New Zealand captain Tommy Smith says his team know what went wrong in their 5-1 loss to Mexico in last week’s World Cup qualifying play-off first leg and will not repeat those mistakes in the return match on Wednesday.

But Smith acknowledged the chance of winning the home leg 4-0 to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil were remote.

“You can’t change what happened,” Smith said. “We lost the game 5-1 and, to be fair, they could have had a few more goals. We came away and took a step back, looked at the game and how it went.

“We set out to sit deep, but as the game wore on, we just kept getting deeper and deeper. We ended up being in our 18-yard box at times, which didn’t help. You’re inviting untold pressure onto yourselves.”

Smith said New Zealand had no choice but to take a positive approach into the return leg, which will be played in front of a crowd of 37,000 — the largest for a football international in New Zealand’s history.

“We had the players to get a result last week, we just didn’t employ our team plan as well as we should have, which makes it an uphill battle on Wednesday,” he said.

“It wasn’t the best result to come back with but we know there’s a full stadium to play in front of and we’re just buzzing to do that.

“There’s still 90 minutes of football to go and football’s a strange game. Stranger things have happened than us winning 4-0 on Wednesday night.”

Mexico trained in Wellington for the first time on Sunday, looking focused and energetic. Winger Miguel Layun said Mexico would not rest on their comfortable lead.

“The result [in Mexico] doesn’t mean anything to us,” he said. “We know we had a great game and we got a comfortable result. But we want to win here and it isn’t going to be easy for us.

“We want to attack, we want to do the things we do better and attack is one of those so we’re going to keep that mentality.”