There were surprises both on and off the field, with the All Whites taking a shock lead and Mexico fans in the stands largely refraining from the infamous “eh p*to” chant after FIFA’s latest warning, drawing praise from the national team’s official Twitter account.
APPLAUSE for the fans who DIDN’T shout at the @NZ_Football goalkeeper. True #Incondicionales!
There was no praise, however, for the play on the field. Juan Carlos Osorio made no fewer than eight changes to the starting XI that drew 2-2 with Portugal on Sunday, and Mexico looked rather disjointed in the opening half. New Zealand had several chances to take the lead, beginning with a dangerous header in the 20th minute that Alfredo Talavera snagged right on the line.
Mexico was then forced into yet another lineup change after Carlos Salcedo fell awkwardly and appeared to dislocate his shoulder in the 28th minute. He was stretchered off the field and replaced by Héctor Moreno.
Then, just before halftime, a defensive breakdown allowed Chris Wood to once again go one-on-one with Talavera – and this time he made no mistake with his finish to give New Zealand the 0-1 lead.
Mexico came out stronger in the second half, however, and in the 54th minute Raúl Jiménez leveled the game with a fine finish following an assist from Marco Fabián.
El Tri completed the comeback in the 68th minute, when Oribe Peralta made it 2-1 after Javier Aquino broke free on the left and found Peralta, who one-timed the ball into the net.
A bad tackle by Michael Boxall in stoppage time resulted in a scuffling match on the field and a rather confused use of VAR by the referee, who ultimately awarded yellow cards to Boxall, Héctor Herrera, and Diego Reyes.
With the 2-1 win, Mexico reaches four points while New Zealand still has zero.
Group A wraps up on Saturday with Mexico vs Russia and New Zealand vs Portugal.
Group Standings – Group A
Mexico: Alfredo Talavera, Néxtor Araújo, Oswaldo Alanís (Héctor Herrera 45′), Carlos Salcedo (Héctor Moreno 33′ – Rafael Márquez 68′), Diego Reyes, Giovani dos Santos, Marco Fabián, Javier Aquino, Jürgen Damm, Oribe Peralta, Raúl Jiménez.
New Zealand: Stefan Marinovic, Andrew Durante, Tommy Smith, Michael Boxall, Deklan Wynne, Dane Ingham (Monty Patterson 82′), Clayton Lewis (Bill Tuiloma 58′), Ryan Thomas, Michael McGlinchey, Chris Wood, Marcos Rojas (Kosta Barbarouses 73′).