Mexico vs. New Zealand soccer live updates
Second-half goals by 21-year-olds Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela lifted Mexico to a 2-0 exhibition win over New Zealand before a crowd of 90,526 at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday.
Hernandez, who scored two goals in Mexico's win over Bolivia a week ago, entered the game to start the second half and gave Mexico a 1-0 lead with a well-placed header just eight minutes after the intermission.
Minutes earlier Hernandez had sent a header wide of the net. But he made good on his second chance, redirecting a long pass from the corner by Carlos Salcido.
Vela made it 2-0 with a deft left-footed kick after dribbling through half the New Zealand defense on this way into the goalie box.
The win is the second in as many tries for Mexico on its 12-game run-in to this summer's World Cup in South Africa. The team's next game will be against fellow World Cup qualifier North Korea in Torreon, Mexico.
Halftime: Mexico O, New Zealand 0
A frustrated Mexican team failed to connect on several good chances in a scoreless first half of Wednesday's exhibition with New Zealand before a soldout crowd at the Rose Bowl.
Playing for the first time this year with many of its European-based stars, the Mexicans had trouble getting on the same page against outmanned New Zealand, who was missing two of its best players. As a result, the All Whites frequently dropped as many as six players back on defense, crowding the area around its goal.
Nevertheless Mexico had several good scoring opportunties. About halfway into the half a wide-open Cuauhtemoc Blanco was unable to control a pass just outside the six-yard box while Jonathan Dos Santos sent a blistering shot off the crossbar in the 28th minute. Five minutes later, a Mexican forward came in offside, blowing another good opportunity and then Dos Santos sent another shot wide with less than a minute left in regulation
* * *
Mexico's lineup for Wednesday's "friendly" with New Zealand contained a few surprises. Coach Javier Aguirre has apparently seen enough of strikers Javier Hernandez and Braulio Luna, who had brilliant performances ijn a 5-0 win over Bolivia last week. So Aguirre benched Hernandez and Luna in favor of Giovani Dos Santos and Aldo De Nigris.
Six the nine players Aguirre recalled from Europe started with Luis Ernesto Michel of Chivas getting the start in goal. Michel, who was making his international debut at age 30, is among those whose World Cup chances are believed to be hanging in the balance with a strong performance likely to improve his chances while a poor outing against New Zealand could prove disastrous.
GK -- Luis Ernesto Michel
D - Rafael Marquez
D - Efrain Juarez
D - Carlos Salcido
D - Richard Osorio
M - Gerardo Torrado
M - Andres Guardado
M - Jonathan Dos Santos
M - Aldo De Nigris
F- Giovani Dos Santos
F - Cuauhtemoc Blanco
GK - Glen Moss
D - Tony Lochhead
D - Andrew Boyens
D - Chad Coombes
D - Thomas Smith
D - Ben Siigmund
M - Simon Elliott
M - Tim Brown
M - Leo Bertos
F - Shane Smeltz
F - Chris Killen
* * * *
How Mexico does in the World Cup won't be decided until June. But there's no doubting that Mexico's national soccer team is among the best in the world when it comes to drawing crowds.
At the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, fans were lined up more than an hour before the gates opened for Mexico's international exhibition with New Zealand. Organizers said Wednesday afternoon that they expected a crowd of about 90,000, which would make it the third-largest to see a soccer game at the Rose Bowl in more than a decade.
The stadium's parking lots began filling up in the early afternoon with fans coming early to beat traffic and take part in a carnival featuring food vendors, mariachi bands and souvenir booths.
Among the early arrivals was Roberto Garcia and his son Robert, natives of the Mexican state of Michoacan who drove over from Las Vegas with friend Francisco Monroy.
"Everybody's here for a win," Roberto, dressed in a green national team jersey, said as he waited in line to buy a taco. "This is special."
His son, dressed in a jersey and with a Mexican flag draped over his shoulders, said the trip was a sacrifice. But it was one he couldn't pass up.
"It was hard," he said. "I had to get off of work to come down here. Just like all these other people."
Wednesday game was Mexico's only scheduled appearance in Southern California in the run-up to this summer's World Cup in South Africa. El Tri opened its Cup preparations a week ago with a 5-0 win over Bolivia and will also play exhibitions in Charlotte, N.C.; East Rutherford, N.J.; Chicago and Houston later this spring.
-- Kevin Baxter
Photo: Mexico forward Angel Eduardo Reyna passes against Bolivia in a 5-0 exhibition win last week. Credit: Jason O. Watson / US Presswire