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Football: We haven't given up, says New Zealand coach

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert on Tuesday insisted his team's World Cup intercontinental play-off against Mexico was not over, despite trailing 5-1 after the first leg.

Herbert, known for his dour defensive tactics, said the All Whites would take a positive mindset into Wednesday's return leg in Wellington and chase the 4-0 scoreline needed to progress to Brazil.

The 52-year-old has been under pressure since last week's mauling at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium, which was dubbed "The Ricki Horror Show" in New Zealand media, and he announced Tuesday he would quit at the end of the World Cup campaign.

But the former All Whites centre-back was upbeat on the eve of what could be his last game in charge, joking that he was going to once again lace up his boots and make a dramatic comeback to marshal the defence.

Herbert said New Zealand, already written off by most pundits, were under no pressure going into the match and he wanted his players to go out "with smiles on their faces" and attack Mexico looking for an upset.

"Isn't that the beauty of sport around the world?" he said. "The anticipation, the excitement, the belief, the uncertainty.

"Who knows what tomorrow night might bring? The doom and gloom some people have wanted to paint is not with us. We'll be up for this and we'll certainly be giving it the best we can."

Captain Tommy Smith also believed the 79th-ranked New Zealanders could mount an unlikely comeback against Mexico, a footballing powerhouse that has played in 14 of the last 19 World Cups.

"We have to believe we can win this," he said. "I believe we've got the attributes to do that."

Herbert will not name his team until Wednesday morning but it is expected to include VfB Stuttgart's Marco Rojas and Perth Glory's Shane Smeltz, the attack-minded duo who were left on the bench at the Azteca.

Fullbacks Storm Roux and Bill Tuiloma are also tipped to make their international debuts as Herbert looks to inject some vigour into a defence that was tentative and squandered possession in the first leg.

"We're back home, we've got a good crowd and we're looking for a good positive performance out there," he said.

Herbert's contract expires at the end of the World Cup campaign and New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum confirmed the coach, the longest serving in All Whites history, would step down after more than eight years in charge.

"The impact Ricki has had on football in New Zealand is immense and it is testament to the fantastic job he has done that his legacy will be felt across all levels of the game and will have a major influence on the future of our sport," he said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131119/football-we-havent-given-says-new-zealand-coach