The New Zealand Players Mexico Must Be Wary of

Karla Villegas Gama@karlitsvFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2013

DENVER, CO - JUNE 01:  Chris Killen #10 of New Zealand and Francisco Rodriguez #2 of Mexico battle for control of the ball at INVESCO Field at Mile High on June 1, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. Mexico defeated New Zealand 3-0 in their international friendly.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Mexico and New Zealand are getting ready for a two-legged playoff to be held next month. Although El Tri have a stronger side—they sit 24th in the FIFA World Rankings, while the Kiwis rank 79th—there are some players that the team must be wary of.

Apparently, Miguel Herrera will not call the footballers that play abroad. After his team defeated Finland 4-2, the Mexican coach said in a presser:

"It is not that they are bad, they are very good players, but the trip is very taxing and arriving on (Nov.) 7, 8 or 9 to play on the 13th, they won’t finish adapting to the situation that we are looking for."

The current roster includes 22 players; Herrera will probably add a goalkeeper and that would be it.

El Tri had ball possession most of the game and played great through the flanks, especially the right one, where Paul Aguilar performed at a tremendous level.

However, if the match against Finland taught us something it was that the defense is Mexico’s weakest link.

The first goal scored on Mexico was the result of confusion. Francisco Rodriguez couldn't reject the ball properly and Juan Carlos Valenzuela just stood there without even trying to defend.

The second one came after Rafael Marquez failed to cover the ball correctly and instead was hoping to receive a foul. The Finish winger sent a cross that Valenzuela netted in his own goal.

The Nordic side had few goal opportunities, but they came either from set pieces or through balls and they put the defense in distress.

Physically speaking, New Zealand and Finland are very similar. Both have big and strong players that take advantage of their fitness to overpower their rivals, with runs through the flanks and sharp headers.

Knowing that Mexico is good with ball possession and recuperation, the Kiwis must make the most of these players:

Marco Rojas

At age 21, he is one of the best wingers on the squad.

He caught media attention while playing for Melbourne Victory, where he spent two seasons and scored 50 goals. He currently wears Stuttgart's jersey.

Rojas is a skillful footballer who can dribble, distribute the ball and shoot with ease.

He comes off an injury, but that does not mean he will not be a factor. His ball touch is fantastic and his passes are precise.

If he cuts in from the flanks through the center of the box, he will definitively be a thriving force.

However, Rojas is a player who takes risks. As such, he might not play in the first game because New Zealand will probably try to maintain the tie for the second leg.

Chris Killen

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 11:  Chris Killen of New Zealand takes the ball over the top of Freddie Kini of the Solomon Islands during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the New Zealand All Whites and Solomon Islands at Eden Park on Septembe
Phil Walter/Getty Images

He is a very experienced striker who capitalizes on his height (6’1’’). He has a powerful header, which comes in handy in set pieces.

Killen played three seasons with Manchester City and made the most of his career in the United Kingdom. He currently plays for Chongqing, a China League One club.

He is a cornerstone of the Kiwis, for whom he has played 48 times and has scored 16 goals.

Chris Wood

Currently playing for Leicester City, Wood is a beast in the front. He has scored 10 times in 30 appearances with New Zealand, including a hat trick in the Nations Cup.

At age 21, Wood has everything a striker needs. He is fast and knows how to leave the defenders behind by taking advantage of their blind side. He is accurate and in great shape.

He has the power to shoot from close-range or to use his head when he is in front of the goalkeeper.

Shane Smeltz

He will partner with Wood in the front. Smeltz is pretty dangerous from the right sideline, where he can attack, by cutting in to the box, or send crosses.

He is a very experienced footballer who has spent most of his professional career in the Australian A-League.

Some of his strengths include impeccable headers and fine touch in long-distance shots.

Smeltz is the second-highest scorer on the team, with 23 goals to his count. He played in the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.

Ivan Vicelich

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 22:  Ivan Vicelich of the New Zealand All Whites looks to attack during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between the New Zealand All Whites and New Caledonia at Forsyth Barr Stadium on March 22, 2013 in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images

He is the most capped player in the team’s history. Vicelich is a central midfielder who is in charge of distributing the ball and organizing the Kiwis.

He will be instrumental in keeping ball possession and giving the forwards and wingers a chance to create goal opportunities.

He is a good leader, but at 37 years old it will tough for him to play at the Estadio Azteca, mainly due to altitude.

Winston Reid

This 25-year-old centre-back is the successor of the great Ryan Nelsen. After his retirement, Reid was appointed captain of the Kiwis.

Reid will play in the right flank if coach Ricki Herbert decides to use a 3-4-3 formation.

He has already played in a World Cup. In 2010 he scored his first international goal, against Slovakia, which also gave New Zealand its first point in the tournament.

His endurance, leadership and technique set him as one of the best defenders of his country.

He plays for Premier League club West Ham United.


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