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New Zealand face Mexico battle to stay alive in Confederations Cup

New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson © AFP/File / OLGA MALTSEVA

SOCHI, Russian Federation, Jun 20 – New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson says the All Whites must be brave against Mexico, knowing defeat on Wednesday will effectively end their Confederations Cup hopes.

Their 2-0 loss to hosts Russia in Saturday’s opening Group A match means Oceania champions New Zealand have now gone a record 10 games without a win at the Confederations Cup having left the 1999, 2003 and 2009 editions empty-handed.

Following Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Portugal, Mexico are up-beat and favourites to win the showdown in Sochi.

“We went toe-to-toe with the European champions and we managed to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check,” beamed Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio after Sunday’s draw in Kazan.

In contrast, underdogs New Zealand must break their goal-drought to have a chance against Mexico.

After friendly 1-0 defeats to both Northern Ireland and Belarus en route to Russia, the All Whites have now played three matches in the last two weeks without scoring.

They badly need a good result against the Mexicans with Euro 2016 winners Portugal to follow in St Petersburg on Saturday in their final group match.

New Zealand lost 2-1 to Mexico in a friendly last October and Hudson, 36, expects a spirited showing from his side.

“We’re determined to approach his game with the right mind-set and we definitely want to progress,” said Hudson in Tuesday’s press conference.

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“We need to be positive, we need to be brave.

“Mexico are a world-class side and we’re the smallest team in the competition.

“But we played them in October in front of 40,000 fans, it was a close game and we caused them problems.

“We don’t want to go in and be fearful, or negative or sit back and let Mexico do what they want.

“I’m expecting an incredible spirit from our team – this is a massive game for us.”

Goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, who faces a busy night against the likes of ex-Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez, believes New Zealand can pull off an upset.

“We can definitely get a result against them,” said the 25-year-old.

“We were unlucky against them before so we’ll be going for three points

Hernandez’s diving header against Portugal leaves ‘Chicharito’, Mexico’s all-time top-scorer, just two short of the 50-goals tally.

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Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio is expected to rotate his team, which could see captain Rafa Marquez, 38, make his first Confed Cup start.

Marquez is the only player at Russia 2017 to have previously lifted the Confederations Cup when hosts Mexico beat Brazil 4-3 in the 1999 final.

“We’ve been trying to figure out if they will make chances,” said NZ boss Hudson.

“They have players with quality in all positions, but I believe the style will stay the same.

“It’s a world-class squad and an incredible test.”

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