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ESPN’s road warrior soccer experts invade New Zealand for last match of Mexico’s World Cup qualifying bid

ESPN soccer commentator Fernando Palomo (right) poses with New Zealand soccer legend John Adshead. (Photo courtesy Fernando Palomo)
ESPN soccer commentator Fernando Palomo (R) poses with New Zealand soccer legend John Adshead, coach of his country’s 1982 World Cup team. (Photo courtesy Fernando Palomo)

[box color=yellow size=small align=right] Follow El Tri on ESPN SYNC

Spanish-speaking fans can follow ESPN’s coverage of Mexico-New Zealand by connecting to ESPN SYNC, ESPN Deportes’ web-based app that enhances sports viewing with a unique second-screen experience during live sporting events. For tonight’s match, ESPN SYNC will feature a live stream with reactions from ESPN Deportes experts Rosana Franco, Eduardo Varela and Roberto Abramowitz. Fans can also navigate the app’s timeline that offers real-time scores/stats, social media interactions, a library of videos and access to polling/trivia.
– Gabriela Nunez[/box]

At Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, on Wednesday (1 a.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), Mexico will face New Zealand in the second leg of an intercontinental playoff series for a spot in FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014.

El Tri’s 5-1 victory over New Zealand on Nov. 15 in Mexico City placed the previously floundering team on the verge of a ticket to the 2014 World Cup.

ESPN’s “El Tri” commentator team of Fernando Palomo, Alejandro Moreno, reporter John Sutcliffe, along with producer Russell Hurwitz and operations director Claude Phipps, immediately travelled to Wellington to cover the rematch live for U.S. English-speaking fans.

After completing their estimated 30-hour, 6,900 airline-mile treks, some of the ESPN staffers shared their thoughts about the production and travel challenges as well as the impending match with Front Row.

Commentator Palomo on “El Tri’s” road to New Zealand:
Never did we think we would be here [New Zealand] to finish the Mexican National Team’s campaign for Brazil 2014. In January, I distinctly remember conversations were focused on the great generation of players the Mexican National Team had with the London Olympic gold medalists coming over to strengthen the senior team. Now, about 20 games later, and a treacherous and mediocre run of play, Mexico comes to this beautiful country to claim one of the last two tickets to the World Cup.

Analyst Moreno on the mood of “All Whites” fans given New Zealand’s dim hopes for World Cup berth:
In talking to people in and around Wellington, their perspective on this game is very reasonable, realistic and healthy. Upon my arrival at the airport, I asked one fan wearing the “All Whites” jersey if he thought a comeback in the series was possible. The fan’s response: “I don’t think so, but I’ll go to the game because the atmosphere will be fantastic!”

Phipps on operational challenges:
Phipps, director of production operations, is responsible for the technical and operational elements for the ESPN telecast. New Zealand is relatively a small country with limited facilities. This is a big match for them. Securing all the things we needed to make the production run smoothly involved several late night e-mails and intense conference calls.

Sideline reporter Sutcliffe on traveling to Wellington:
This was approximately a 30-hour trip from Mexico City, including the connecting flights. It is one of my longest travel assignments. I can only compare it to four years ago when I had to travel from a Monday Night Football game in New Orleans, La.,  to Cape Town, South Africa, for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Draw, and then get back in time to Green Bay, Wisc., for the next MNF game – all in 10 days.

From New Zealand, Sutcliffe provides perspective on El Tri in the video below.

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