New Zealand’s hopes of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil took an almighty battering as it succumbed to a 5-1 intercontinental play-off first-leg loss to Mexico at the Azteca on Thursday morning.
The result means the All Whites will have to at least beat Mexico 4-0 in Wellington on November 20 to secure an unlikely away-goals qualification.
After scoring just three goals in their last four CONCACAF qualifiers at home, Mexico rediscovered its scoring touch as it outclassed the Oceania champions.
New Zealand desperately missed injured West Ham centre-back Winston Reid, as Mexico overcame a bright start by the visitors to completely control affairs.
Glen Moss had conspired to single-handedly keep the hosts at bay throughout the first half with a string of saves, before Paul Aguilar opened the floodgates for the hosts.
Aguilar tucked home from close range to finish off a scrappy move in the first half, before Raul Jimenez put Mexico 2-0 up, nodding in a goal from a corner.
It was 3-0 shortly after the break through Oribe Peralta, who added a second in the 79th minute to rub more salt in the visitors’ wounds.
Former Barcelona defender and Mexico captain Rafael Marquez made it 5-0 when he poked home from another corner, before substitute Chris James pulled back a consolation goal for New Zealand, volleying in off the post.
Elsewhere, Uruguay are almost assured of their place in next year’s World Cup after battering Jordan 5-0 in their intercontinental playoff first leg.
The South American giants, sixth in the FIFA rankings, overcame a few tense minutes at the start of the game at the packed Amman International Stadium to seal an emphatic victory against the 70th ranked Jordanians who failed to live up to the hype and expectation generated in their own country.
Benfica defender Maxi Pereira put the South Americans ahead in the 22nd minute with a simple tap-in after an Edinson Cavani header was parried by Jordanian goalkeeper Abdulla al-Zubi.
The two-time world champions consolidated their lead through Espanyol striker Christian Stuani who sneaked the ball under al-Zubi after a brilliant dummy by Cavani in the 42nd minute.
The tall Paris Saint-Germain star ducked under a throw-in to allow the ball to reach Nicolas Lodeiro and the Botafogo midfielder clipped the ball to Stuani who beat al-Zubi with an easy shot from close range.