Today Marks The Beginning of FIFA World Cup Playoffs


Mexico has done this before, positioning its kickoff for an afternoon start ? the better to exploit all its advantages of playing at Azteca Stadium. Who could blame them? All is fair in love and $650 million World Cup berths.

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. locally (or 3:30 p.m. ET); the game can be seen on ESPN, Univision or Univision Deportes.

Why get started during the day when more Mexicans could take in an evening kickoff time, which is more typical of a mid-week match? New Zealand players will struggle to deal with the thin air (altitude is over 7,000 feet) as it is. All the better if they also must deal with the hottest possible afternoon temperatures, not to mention a time of day when smog levels reach their ickiest.

All of this is after the All Whites travelled halfway around the world to arrive over the weekend into Mexico City.

More on the match itself Wednesday at ProSoccerTalk on Wednsday.

Meanwhile, don?t forget that Jordan and Uruguay also begin their home-and-away playoff; Wednesday?s first leg is in Amman, Jordan. Liverpool?s Luis Suarez is warning anyone who will listen that Jordan cannot be taken lightly by his country.

But the oddsmakers say: uh, go ahead and take them lightly. If you know a guy who knows a guy, the odds you?ll get on Jordan getting past Suarez, Edinson Cavani and the rest of Uruguay?s talented team, never mind that wobbly World Cup qualifying effort, land anywhere from 9-1 to 16-1.

Them ain?t good odds.

The European playoffs (also home-and-away sets with a berth in Brazil on the line) begin Friday. As a reminder, here are those matchups:


Meanwhile, with two Champions League trophies and four La Liga titles under his belt, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera was effusive in his praise of Rafa Marquez ahead of Wednesday?s pressure World Cup playoff first leg against New Zealand, highlighting the influence he has on El Tri.

?The communication with Rafa has been extraordinary, he?s a natural leader,? stated Herrera in Tuesday?s press conference. ?He?s a guy that talks on the field, leads and shouts at the right time.?

The Mexico coach, who dismissed talk that Mexico is a hostile place to visit by saying the country is ?super cool,? added that Francisco ?Maza? Rodriguez is also a key figure of influence along with central midfielder Juan Carlos Medina.

Herrera also stuck to his usual approach of naming which players will start the day before the game, confirming that Moises Munoz gets the nod in goal, while Raul Jimenez will accompany Oribe Peralta upfront.

?Raul adds a little bit more mobility,? said Herrera.

The Mexico team, playing a 5-3-2 formation, will be: Munoz, Juan Carlos Valenzuela, Marquez, Rodriguez, Miguel Layun, Paul Aguilar, Medina, Luis Montes, Carlos Pena, Peralta and Jimenez.

The press conference started out with Herrera declaring that he is sure Mexico will win the game and adding that what has happened in World Cup qualifying to this point needs to be forgotten.

?You can?t fix what has already happened,? Herrera said. ?The rules still say we can go to the World Cup.?

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