Oribe Peralta scored a second-half winner as Mexico overcome rainy conditions and a pair of controversial refereeing decisions to defeat Cameroon 1-0 in both teams' FIFA World Cup opener on Friday at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal.
Peralta netted in the 61st minute, slotting in the rebound after Giovani Dos Santos saw his initial shot saved. It was Peralta's first international goal since January, ending a scoreless run of four matches.
The victory and three points could prove immensely valuable for El Tri in the race to qualify from Group A, which also includes hosts Brazil and Croatia. The Brazilians are heavily favoured to win the group, especially after defeating Croatia 3-1 on Thursday in the tournament's opening game.
Mexico now find themselves level on three points with Brazil, with the two teams set to face off Tuesday in Fortaleza. Cameroon will play Croatia the following day in Manaus, with the loser most likely doomed to finish last in the group.
As Goal.com's Tom Marshall noted, Friday's match held massive importance for El Tri. Meanwhile, B/R's Ed Dove tweeted that Cameroon disappointed throughout.
Mexico 1-0 Cameroon. Positive opener from El Tri in a must-win game. Mexico moves level with Brazil on three points in Group A.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) June 13, 2014
Bitterly disappointing for Cameroon. An opener against Mexico was their chance to take the initiative. They failed...completely.— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) June 13, 2014
Neither team scored in the first half, but whatever the opening 45 minutes lacked in goals, it more than made up for it with entertainment and controversy. Dos Santos had two goals ruled out for offside, with both decisions proving contentious.
The first came in the 11th minute as Dos Santos volleyed in from Hector Herrera's cross following a bright opening by Mexico. Although replays suggested Dos Santos was onside, the goal was disallowed and the match remained scoreless.
Cameroon had a goal of their own ruled out in the 16th minute, but this time the decision was more clear-cut, with Samuel Eto'o in a clearly offside position. Eto'o came close again five minutes later, bouncing a first-time shot just wide following excellent work down the left by full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
The next chance fell to Mexico in the 27th minute as Andres Guardado curled in a fine free kick toward the back post, where both Rafa Marquez and Hector Moreno were lurking. Moreno appeared to have the better chance to score, but Marquez could only glance his header wide of the post.
Two minutes later, Mexico and Dos Santos had a second goal ruled out in another tight decision. Dos Santos was the would-be scorer again, heading in from a corner before being flagged offside following a deflection off the head of a Cameroon defender.
With the match scoreless at half-time, the chances kept coming early in the second half, as Peralta forced a save from Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje from close range after running onto Dos Santos' through ball into the box.
Cameroon came close in the 58th minute as Assou-Ekotto saw his free-kick deflect narrowly wide of the target.
Three minutes later, Mexico finally made the breakthrough—and there was no chance of offside this time.
Dos Santos and Herrera combined to carve out the initial chance, Dos Santos forcing a save with a low shot from just inside the box. But although Itandje stopped the first shot, Peralta popped up to tuck in the rebound for a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute.
Mexico kept attacking after the goal, searching for another goal to finish off Cameroon. The second goal never came, however, and instead the Africans came close in stoppage time as Benjamin Moukandjo directed a header toward the top corner. But Guillermo Ochoa moved quickly to save, preserving the victory—and three valuable points—for Mexico in what could be a tight Group A.
|Francisco Javier Rodriguez||7||7|
|Jose Juan Vazquez||8||7|
|Giovani Dos Santos||9||9|
|Marco Fabian (for Guardado, 69')||N/A||7|
|Javier Hernandez (for Peralta, 74')||N/A||6|
|Carlos Salcido (for Herrera, 90')||N/A||6|
Ratings by B/R UK
|Eric Maxime Choupo-Moting||6||6|
|Dany Nounkeu (for Djeugoue, 46')||N/A||6|
|Pierre Webo (for Song, 79')||N/A||6|
Ratings by B/R UK
Note: Ratings on a 1-10 scale with 1 being the worst and 10 the best.
El Tri coach Miguel Herrera thanks his side's supporters and looked forward to the Brazil match, saying Mexico would go for the win. As quoted by FIFA.com, Herrera said:
I’d like to thank the fans that supported us and encouraged us for the duration of the match. They need to maintain that confidence in us, because we’ve now got over our first hurdle, and it’s just the start. We plan to fight tooth and nail against Brazil in order to win the match.
Cameroon coach Volker Finke expressed disappointment with the Indomitable Lions' performance, telling FIFA.com: "We’re very disappointed with the result; I think we deserved a draw. There’s still all to play for, though, and we’re going to head into the Croatia match with the intention of winning."