July 5, 2011

Mexico 2, New Zealand 2

Mexico gave a game effort to reach the quarterfinals, but in the end it came up just short with a 2-2 tie against New Zealand. As it turned out, it wouldn't have mattered anyway, as England was well in control of their match.

New Zealand, who had come all so close against both England and Japan, managed to get two very late goals to tie this match and earn their first World Cup point ever.

New Zealand coach John Herdman inserted veteran Hayley Moorwood and young Rosie White into the starting lineup for this match. Mexican coach Leonardo Cuellar made two changes in his lineup as well from the previous match against Japan. Kenti Robles started on the back line in place of Luz Saucedo. And Guadalupe Worbis started in the midfield in place of Dinora Garza.

Knowing that to have a chance, they needed to score several goals, Mexico went on the attack early. And just over a minute into the match, they went up 1-0. Veronica Perez gained possession and threaded a pass up the middle to Maribel Dominguez. Dominguez pushed the ball out the right side for Stephany Mayor. Mayor timed her run perfectly and having beaten the defender, walked in on goal and place her hard, low shot through the legs of Ferns goalkeeper Jenny Bindon. Mexico had taken the early 1-0 lead.

In the 20th minute, Mexico nearly doubled their lead. Mayor crossed the ball into the box, but Perez's diving effort at a header missed by mere inches. A few minutes later, Bindon made a nice save on Monica Ocampo and New Zealand's defense was able to block the ensuing rebound.

New Zealand nearly equalized in the 26th minute after a collision in the penalty area, but Cecilia Santiago came out to make the save as Betsy Hassett was able to get a shot off from 12 yards out.

Mexico's second goal came in the 29th minute. Santiago's goal kick came to center with Perez heading the ball forward past the defense. Dominguez had timed it perfectly and her great speed put her well behind the defender. She made no mistake finishing with well placed shot past Bindon and inside the right post. For Dominguez, it had been a long wait. She scored in the 1999 World Cup for Mexico, the last time they appeared in the tournament.

Mexico continued to press the attack, but with England leading the other match, things looked dim for the tricolor.

New Zealand tried to get one back at the start of the second half, as Ali Riley's cross found Anna Green, but her header went wide of the net.

At the other end, Ocampo put a shot from 10 yards well over the bar in the 58th minute. Dominguez attempted a shot from distance in the 60th minute, but it also went high. With England now leading 2-0 over Japan, the task had become impossible for Mexico as far as the quarterfinals go.

New Zealand began to knock on the door and came close in the 72nd minute as Mexico almost helped them out. A New Zealand corner kick found the head of Dinora Garza, who almost put it in her own net. Santiago made a reflex save to tip the ball just wide.

Charlyn Corral hit a free kick onto the top of the goal in the 88th minute, nearly putting Mexico up 3-0.

With time winding down, New Zealand was able to score two late goals. As had been giving them problems throughout the tournament, it was a set piece that led to the first goal against Mexico. Rebecca Smith rose easily above the defense and headed home a corner kick in the 90th minute.

Two minutes of time was added on and it was nearly that far into to stoppage when Hannah Wilkinson went down with an injury. The game continued on yet another minute as Wilkinson re-entered the game. She received a cross into the box, settled the ball and finished past Santiago to tie the match 2-2 on the last play of the match.

Mexico made a very good account of themselves, playing two strong matches against England and New Zealand. They earned two points and it could have easily been four. New Zealand was thrilled to have earned their first World Cup point.