High stakes for All Whites against Mexico at Confederations Cup
On second glance, the All Whites weren't so bad against Russia at the Confederations Cup and can give Mexico some problems.
That's the assessment of defender Tommy Smith, who admits their second group match against the Mexicans in Sochi on Thursday (NZT) has a sudden-death status following the 2-0 loss to Russia.
"It's our Cup final really," he said.
"If we don't win this game, or we lose this game, that's probably it for the tournament so we need to do all we can to get the three points."
Seasoned Ipswich Town centre back Smith initially felt deflated following the opening loss to the tournament hosts in St Petersburg.
While there has been criticism of New Zealand's one-dimensional tactics, Smith changed his tune about their performance after watching a replay.
"Obviously very disappointed in the immediate aftermath. But, having taken stock of the game itself, it wasn't as bad as it felt at the time," he said.
"We played well in patches, we were quite effective in patches and we had a couple of half-chances which, if we'd taken, it would have been a different ball game."
Smith says the performance was a step-up from their pre-tournament warmup matches which both ended in 1-0 losses, to Northern Ireland and Belarus.
World No.17 Mexico, who opened with a 2-2 draw against European champions Portugal, are formidable opponents who the All Whites know well.
Mexico won their World Cup qualifying inter-confederation play-off 9-3 on aggregate in 2013.
New Zealand were more competitive in a 2-1 loss in Nashville last year, a game in which the Mexicans were knocked off their stride by some effective pressing defence.
Smith didn't play in that match but says it has given the squad a boost as they prepare this week.
"That's part of our game plan. Anyone who's watched us over the last few games will see that we like to press and it will be no different against Mexico," he said.
"We like to think if we can win the ball high up the pitch, it will create better opportunities for us to score.
"The never-say-die attitude is inbred through all Kiwis and we'll keep battling right to the end."