THE Confederations Cup continues on Wednesday and we asked international football analyst Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his thoughts on the Group A contest between Mexico and New Zealand.
Mexico v New Zealand | Wednesday 19:00 | ITV
We highlighted Mexico as runners to qualify from Group B pre-tournament, as well as each-way value to take the Confederations Cup crown, and I was pleased with how El Tri equipped themselves against Portugal in their opener on Saturday.
Juan Carlos Osorio’s men twice fought back from a goal down, including a last-gasp leveller to snatch a point. The Colombian coach continues to face criticism back home but the players are behind the tinkerman boss and showed plenty of spirit having fallen behind after 86 minutes.
This Mexico are a fluent and interesting team, packed full of midfield and attacking options. Record goalscorer Javier Hernandez grabbed his third goal in seven international appearances whilst Carlos Vela put in a delightful performance as part of a front-three with Raul Jimenez.
Mexico on the up
Since a bewildering 7-0 hammering at the Copa America last summer – the Central Americans sole competitive defeat under Osorio – Mexico have gone from strength-to-strength. An W8-D3-L1 return in the following 12 outings has breathed confidence back into El Tri’s ranks.
Victories over USA and Chile are arguably the only standout successes in a run of only two defeats in 39 outings but major improvements have been made on and off the pitch. World Cup qualification is within touching distance whilst the structure, versatility and steel in the squad deserves plenty of plaudits.
El Tri still enjoy possession of the ball but their plentiful options going forward suggest they’ll be primed and ready to put New Zealand to the sword here.
New Zealand licking wounds
I talked the Kiwis up ahead of their game against Russia, suggesting highly-rated coach Anthony Hudson would ask his All Whites outfit to get forward at every opportunity to try and rattle the hosts.
In truth, New Zealand were swept aside and fostered few goalscoring chances with possession routinely turned over. A repeat performance on Wednesday evening could spell disaster.
The Kiwis have now fired blanks in each of their last three fixtures against Northern Ireland, Belarus and Russia and encouraging displays against the Mexicans and USA at the end of 2016 now seem a world away.
The All Whites have made three previous Confederations Cup appearances and picked up a solitary point, scoring only twice across their 10 matches. And last year’s OFN Nations Cup triumph shows a narrow 1-0 defeat of New Caledonia in the semi-finals; penalties were then needed to edge out Papua New Guinea after a 0-0 draw. Concerning.
Hudson’s cultivated a youthful squad that’s packed with energy, pace and power. The English coach is famous in the region for attacking football and his admiration for a high-pressing game but it could potentially be suicidal here and it remains to be seen whether the former Leeds target will persist with a back-three.
The betting angle
Goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic – who plays in Germany’s fourth-tier – was impressive in the opener but Winston Reid’s absence at the back is a major blow, meaning the Kiwis just aren’t equipped to cope defensively with the quality at this competition.
New Zealand haven’t beaten a side from outside of the Oceania region since they won 1-0 against Saudi Arabia in a friendly in September 2013 and their only victories since 2010 against non-Oceania opposition have come against the Saudis, Oman, and Honduras.
The underdogs have failed to score in five of their last six defeats but a wiser angle of attack is backing Mexico -2 on the Asian Handicap line at 7/9 (188BET) – it’s a selection that would see our stake returned should El Tri only manage a two-goal triumph.
This should be a stroll.
Mexico v New Zealand – Mexico -2 Asian Handicap (7/9 188BET)