MEXICO CITY - Mexico took a huge step toward next year's World Cup finals, shaking off recent bad form to pummel New Zealand 5-1 on Wednesday in their intercontinental play-off first leg. Playing in Mexico City's imposing Azteca Stadium, El Tri delivered on their manager Miguel Herrera's pre-game call to take a big goal advantage into the second leg in New Zealand on November 20.

It was a huge turnaround for Mexico, who barely made it to the play-off after struggling in their North and Central America and Caribbean regional group, finishing fourth out of six teams. After winning just twice and scoring a paltry seven goals in 10 games within the CONCACAF final group, the Mexicans looked like a revived team as they came out charging against the All Whites.

Herrera, who last month became Mexico's fourth manager in six weeks, had voiced confidence that his team would win, even asking his squad to score at least three goals to take them closer to Brazil next year. New Zealand, who made it to the 2010 World Cup after a memorable play-off victory against Bahrain, had hoped to keep it close but Mexico were the stronger side. Goalkeeper Glen Moss made several valiant saves but Mexico's relentless attack was too much, with Santos forward Oribe Peralta leading the charge with a brace. Defender Paul Aguilar opened the score sheet when he volleyed home a ball deflected inside the Kiwi area in the 31st minute.

Fellow Club America striker Raul Jimenez followed eight minutes later with a header following a corner kick. Peralta scored his first goal three minutes into the second half, tapping in a nifty low cross from Miguel Arturo Layun, who gave New Zealand all kinds of problems on the left wing.

Layun gave Peralta his second goal in the 80th minute, this time with a high cross that the forward headed out of Moss's reach into the left corner of the net. Former Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez, the 34-year-old who now plays for Mexican club Leon, scored the fifth goal with a header from a corner kick in the 84th minute New Zealand's Chris James scored a consolation goal a minute later but it was too late to do any damage.