Ayala steps in for injured Mier in Mexico squad


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico called up UANL Tigres center back Hugo Ayala on Monday to replace the injured Hiram Mier in their squad for the World Cup playoff against New Zealand.

Mier pulled out of coach Miguel Herrera's squad on Sunday after suffering a knee injury playing for Monterrey in their 3-0 win over Veracruz in the Mexican first division on Saturday.

"Hugo Ayala has been called up to the national team which is preparing for the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand ... owing to the withdrawal through injury of Hiram Mier," the Mexican football federation said on its website (www.femexfut.com.mx).

Mexico, who failed to book a place at the 2014 finals in Brazil directly from the CONCACAF qualifiers, face Oceania winners New Zealand over two legs, on November 13 at the Azteca and a week later in Wellington, for a World Cup ticket.

Ayala, who has close to a dozen Mexico caps, was voted the country's best central defender after helping Tigres win the 2011 Apertura championship.

(Reporting by Carlos Calvo; Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Sonia Oxley)

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