Second-half surge sends Mexico through
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Mexico eased into the quarter-finals at the expense of New Zealand courtesy of second-half strikes from Sofia Huerta, Natalia Gomez Junco, Yamile Franco and Olivia Jimenez.

The Kiwis held a one-point advantage over Leonardo Cuellar’s side before their encounter in Kobe, but the 4-0 victory ensured the CONCACAF outfit finished second in Group A behind Japan.

Mexico will now face Group B winners Nigeria in Tokyo on Thursday, while defeat signalled the end of New Zealand’s participation at the tournament.

Knowing that only a win would guarantee qualification for the last eight, Mexico started brightly, but it was New Zealand who edged a first half which ended goalless.

Goals were plentiful during the second period, however, as the Mexicans found their shooting boots. Huerta bagged the first two minutes after the restart by taking advantage of some defensive uncertainty.

Three goals in 13 minutes then put the icing on the cake as New Zealand failed to respond. With 16 minutes remaining, Gomez Junco doubled the advantage with a header.

Franco converted another header after 85 minutes and the fourth arrived two minutes later, with Jimenez finishing after New Zealand struggled to clear a free-kick sufficiently.

“After our two first games, we knew that we could play better,” said Mexico coach Leonardo Cuellar. “It was a game to win or die, and we played it like we had to. In the first half, we didn’t provide any gifts, we were very serious, and in the second half, we had to give everything to win.

“I wasn’t surprised by the level of the team, but I’m happy to see that we improved game after game. Our preparation was not easy, and I think that we are starting to know our real level.”