Despite a 5-1 victory over New Zealand in the first leg of their World Cup playoff last week, Mexico continue to insist, at least publicly, that nothing is yet decided ahead of the return match in Wellington on Wednesday. After a woeful qualification, Mexico finally sprung to life under their fourth coach in two months, Miguel Herrera, and with a squad of entirely domestic-based players.
Yet Miguel Layun, who excelled as a wing-back in Herrera’s newly implemented 3-5-2 system, is determined that El Tri not rest on their laurels in the second leg.
"The result [in Mexico] doesn't mean anything to us,'' he said, according to the Associated Press. "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.''
Certainly Mexico fans will welcome a continuation of that attacking mentality after a year of insipid performances from their side. While it would take one of international football’s all-time great upsets for New Zealand to win by a four-goal margin, there is still much for Mexico to play for beyond the result of the tie.
The players will know that the European-based stars like Javier Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos will be reintegrated ahead of the World Cup and that they can help their chances greatly of joining them with another strong display. Herrera too needs his side to play with similar verve.
Given the questionable decision-making of the Liga-MX owners who control the team, Herrera’s achievements at the Azteca will likely be quickly forgotten should Mexico struggle in New Zealand. A win not just in the tie but in the match may well be needed for him to lead the side to Brazil.
But if Mexico have learned anything from this qualification campaign it’s not to look too far ahead and that reputation counts for nothing if it’s not backed up on the pitch. The All Whites will be hoping for some mental fragility from their opponents in front of a 37,000 at the Westpac Stadium -- a record crowd for an international in New Zealand.
Coach Ricki Herbert, in what could prove to be his last match in charge, will be forced into three changes, with suspensions ruling out Chris Wood, Ivan Vicelich and Leo Bertos, and could make far more including a switch in his system. One man that will keep his place, captain Tommy Smith remains upbeat of putting right what happened last week and seeing if the All Whites can make it an uncomfortable night for Mexico.
"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.''
Where to watch: The second leg of the World Cup playoff will kick off at 1 a.m. ET on Wednesday. Coverage will be provided by ESPN and Univision, with live streams available on Watch ESPN and UnivisionDeportes.com.