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As It Happened: Mexico 5, New Zealand 1

Mexico celebrates Jimenez's goal Mexico's Paul Aguilar celebrates his goal that gives El Tri a 1-0 lead over New Zealand (Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Mexico's 2014 World Cup hopes have come down to this: A two-leg qualifying playoff against New Zealand.

Mexico, thought to be the overwhelming favorite in CONCACAF, finished fourth in the Hexagonal, going 2-3-5 and only remaining alive for the playoff thanks to the USA's result in Panama on the final matchday. Nobody else can help El Tri now, though, as Mexico has to reach Brazil on its own merit.

New Zealand has been waiting idly by for this playoff for months after finishing first in the Oceania region, whose qualifying campaign came to a close on March 26. The All Whites are the underdogs, but they've got some fight to them. Despite crashing out of the 2010 World Cup in the group stage, New Zealand went unbeaten in the competition, playing Italy, Slovakia and Paraguay to draws and finishing 0-0-3 and a point ahead of the Azzurri.

Join us for a running account of the first leg of their decisive playoff, which is taking place at the vaunted (or formerly vaunted, anyway) Estadio Azteca:

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AND THERE'S THE FINAL WHISTLE! Mexico has to be feeling MUCH better about itself now after a 5-1 first-leg victory over New Zealand. 90 more minutes until El Tri can officially book its place in Brazil.

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Into three minutes of stoppage time. As it stands, New Zealand will need a 4-0 win at home to prevent Mexico from making it to the World Cup. Never say never. But come on.

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89th minute - Jimenez weaves through New Zealand's "defense" and RIFLES a blast that was earmarked for the upper left corner, but Moss swats it away. Heck of a hit.

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85th minute - GOAL NEW ZEALAND!!! Welp, there's an away goal as Chris James volleys home one to make it 5-1. Shouldn't matter, but makes things *somewhat* more interesting.

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84th minute - GOAL MEXICO!!! RAFA MARQUEZ!! Off the short corner with a header. 5-0!

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81st minute - Another Rafa long ball starts it, and Layun serves it to Peralta on a platter. He snapped a perfect header into the far upper corner of the goal as his last act of the game, as he gets substituted out. Two goals for Peralta, and Mexico is on its way to Brazil. 4-0.

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80th minute - AND THERE'S THE FOURTH!! GOAL PERALTA!! WHAT A HEADER!

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80th minute - SAVE MOSS!!! ROBS LAYUN of an absolute SCREAMER with a diving punch.

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78th minute - New Zealand managed to score three or more goals at home twice in World Cup qualifying, scoring six against the Solomon Islands in Sept. 2012 and three against Confederations Cup darling Tahiti in Oct. 2012. So there's that going for the Kiwis.

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73rd minute - RAFA MARQUEZ nearly puts the capper on this one. Another chance off a set piece for Mexico. And here that was supposed to be New Zealand's blueprint for success.

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70th minute - New Zealand really showing 0 ability to get a foothold in this. If not for Moss' first-half heroics this scoreline wouldn't be semi-respectable. On aggregate today: Uruguay/Mexico 8, New Zealand/Jordan 0.

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66th minute - Now the real question, assuming Mexico doesn't completely capsize and throw this away: Does Miguel Herrera coach the team in Brazil? Does the FMF get in its own way? Situation worth watching.

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63rd minute - Mexico not stopping to apply pressure. El Tri is out for blood today. It's about time.

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60th minute - Sinha replaces Montes for Mexico. 37-year-old Sinha.

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Video of Peralta's goal:

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Per our @BrianStraus, Oribe Peralta has scored in six of his past seven games for Mexico, including four in a row. The USA was the last team to shut him out, doing so at Dos-A-Cero 2013 in Columbus.

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53rd minute - MONTES comes close with a blast from a right-sided angle. This is about as cathartic a performance as Mexico has had all year. Wonder what the European-based players are thinking as they watch this. Mexico playing with life, pizzazz, killer instinct. Then again, consider the opponent. But still.

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Mexico's three goals are the highlights of this one, but how about this save from Moss off THIS attempt by Jimenez:

ScorpionKick

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WAY too easy for Peralta, who latches onto a cross from Layun on the left and slots a ball in from close range while completely unmarked. Jurgen Klinsmann was right after all. Mexico will qualify for the World Cup.

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48th minute - GOAAAALLLLL PERALTA!!! 3-0 MEXICO!

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47th minute - Wood sends a bit of a message with a curling chance from outside of the area to begin the half. New Zealand not ready to fold up and go home just yet.

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And the second half is underway. Mexico had 82 percent (EIGHTY TWO PERCENT) possession in the first half, and made it count. No subs at the half.

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Mexico's two goals:

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And there's the halftime whistle. Just what the doctor ordered for Mexico. Work to be done for New Zealand to ensure this doesn't get completely out of hand.

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45th minute - If Uruguay had to play Mexico and New Zealand got to play Jordan, perhaps these playoffs would have a bit more drama to them. Instead, the second legs to both series are shaping up to be mere formalities. Here's to hoping the European playoffs have a bit more unpredictability.

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Moss left hung out to dry there, as Jimenez was able to get his head on a second ball after an initial header off the set piece, giving El Tri a more comfortable buffer. Mexico could have 5. It might by the end of this one.

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GOAL JIMENEZ!!! OFF THE CORNER KICK!! 2-0!

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39th minute - DOUBLE SUPER SAVE MOSS!!! ROBS JIMENEZ OFF A SCORPION KICK TRY! My lord.

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Mexico has another goal waved off for offside. One-way traffic right now, Mexico overwhelming its Kiwi guests.

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All about game management for both teams now. New Zealand has to play damage control. Going home with a 1-0 loss isn't the worst thing in the world. For Mexico, taking a 1-0 edge to New Zealand won't calm many nerves. The way things are going though, there's more to come from El Tri.

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Moss came off his line to make a play on the ball in his box and collided with a teammate. Aguilar was there to finish into an empty net and relieve a TON of tension at the Azteca.

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32nd minute - GOAAAALLLL AGUILAR! 1-0 MEXICO!

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27th minute - Hmmmmm did Jimenez's earlier shot cross the line? From @RazaEspn

MexGoal

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26th minute - Carlos Pena offside on a tight through ball from Jimenez, waving off a golden chance from close range. Moss made the save anyway, though.

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24th minute - MAZA OFF THE CROSSBAR!! WOW. The much-maligned defender laces an absolute rocket off the bar from 35+ yards. Moss may have tipped it onto the bar. Close call. New Zealand hanging on.

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19th minute - SAVE GLEN MOSS!!! Lunged to punch a ball off his line!! Did Jimenez's ball cross the line? The referees say no....close, close call. Great work by Aguilar to get down the right flank and send that ball across the box. Mexico starting to stretch New Zealand.

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16th minute - First yellow card of the game as Chris Wood comes flying into Rafa Marquez with an elbow to the head. Rafa is known to go down with a gust of wind, but that was legit. Costly card too, as Wood is now suspended from the second leg with that card. He has 10 goals in 32 games for New Zealand.

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14th minute - More danger from Mexico as Durante is forced to come over and prevent Peralta from getting a clean look in the area. Nothing comes from the ensuing corner kick, though.

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12th minute - CLOSE chance for Mexico as Moss comes way off his line in the New Zealand goal to punch away the ball but can't clear it past Jimenez. His first-time effort from distance was blocked before it could find its way to the empty net, though. Still scoreless.

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9th minute - Teasing ball through the area to the far post, but captain Tommy Smith couldn't direct it on frame.

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8th minute - New Zealand's Chris Wood wins a foul off Maza Rodriguez in a dangerous position. Set pieces could be the ultimate opportunity for the All Whites, especially given Mexico's struggles in defending them.

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@KICKTV making an early run at Internet winner of the day with this of Mexico manager Miguel Herrera via its Twitter feed:

Herrera

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3rd minute - Mexico has a go from distance through Montes, who fires high and well over everything. New Zealand still looking for its first real moments in possession.

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And this game is UNDERWAY.

Mexico fans bringing out the "Ole" from the start as Mexico possesses off the opening kick.

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Interesting to note that Jeremy Brockie is in the starting lineup for New Zealand. Spent a good chunk of the MLS season on loan at Toronto FC and showed attacking promise with a goal and three assists in 15 games.

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Anthems are in the books, and the nerves are on the rise. Mexico and New Zealand ready for action with everything on the line.

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Notes from ESPN: Mexico has qualified for 14 World Cups, most of any CONCACAF country and most of any country never to win a World Cup. If Mexico does not qualify, its 14 previous World Cups will be the most of any nation that fails to reach the 2014 finals.

Mexico has appeared in five straight World Cups, last missing out in 1990 when banned for using an ineligible player in a youth qualifying tournament. Mexico hasn't been eliminated during the qualifying process since 1982.

Mexico is 69-2-8 in home qualifiers. has lost twice in 79 home qualifiers. But Mexico has won only once in five home qualifiers this year, losing to Honduras and playing three scoreless draws. These struggles ended Mexico’s 24-game home qualifying win streak that ran from 2001 to 2012.

As another way of looking at Mexico’s home struggles, El Tri dropped nine points in five home qualifiers in the final round. In 20 games over the four previous final rounds, Mexico dropped a total of seven points.

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As for New Zealand, the All Whites will go to war with:

Goalkeeper: Glen Moss (Wellington Phoenix)

Defenders: Tony Lochhead (Waikato FC), Tommy Smith (Ipswich Town), Ivan Vicelich (Auckland City), Leo Bertos (Wellington Phoenix), Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix)

Midfielders: Michael McGlinchey (Central Coast Mariners), Kosta Barbarouses (Melbourne Victory), Jeremy Christie (Waitakere United), Jeremy Brockie (Wellington Phoenix)

Forward: Chris Wood (Leicester City).

Key defender Winston Reid, who plays for Premier League side West Ham, is injured and not available for manager Ricki Herbert.

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For the visual ones out there, here's how El Tri will line up, per Fox Soccer TV:

mexformation

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Current Mexico manager Miguel Herrera is playing this hand of poker open, as he released his lineup a day early. With only domestic-based players available, he'll go with:

Goalkeeper: Moises Munoz (America)

Defenders: Paul Aguilar (America), Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America), Rafa Marquez (Leon), Maza Rodriguez (America), Miguel Layun (America)

Midfielders: Juan Carlos Medina (America), Luis Montes (Leon), Carlos Pena (Leon)

Forwards: Oribe Peralta (Santos Laguna), Raul Jimenez (America)

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Good afternoon everyone and thanks for joining us for today's crucial day for Mexican soccer, with El Tri needing a result against New Zealand to feel good about securing a place in Brazil next summer.

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