Mexico engineered the perfect start in its quest to emerge from Group A with a 1-0 victory over Cameroon on Friday afternoon.
Oribe Peralta delivered the deserved and vital winner just after the hour mark to ensure the rainy afternoon in Natal did not end in referee-induced frustration. Giovani dos Santos saw two apparent goals incorrectly ruled out for offside during the first half, but his initial effort forced a save from Charles Itandje and paved the way for Peralta to slide home at the second attempt.
It proved no less than El Tri deserved against a disjointed Cameroon side during a match marred once again by poor decisions from the refereeing crew. Peralta ensured the proper result arrived in the end, but the questions will persist after dos Santos’ first-half efforts were incorrectly ruled out by the assistant referee
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Mexico boss Miguel Herrera will lament those errors before turning his focus to positives in a comprehensive and impressive performance from his side. The energy, the organization and the quality mustered on the day allowed El Tri to collect three critical points and placed the side in a good position ahead of a difficult second match against Brazil in Fortaleza on Tuesday.
”We could have scored more, but unfortunately we’re not used to these conditions,” Herrera said. ”Frankly, the refereeing took away two clear goals, but at the end of the day you’ve got to work for it, and we get to the next match with three points and very high spirits.”
The impending date with the host nation and the need to procure a positive result prompted a bright start from Mexico. The combination of application, endeavor and width unsettled the Camerooians in the early stages and paved the way for several opportunities in the early stages.
Dos Santos’ clever run deserved to send El Tri in front after just 12 minutes. The Villarreal forward validated his selection over Javier Hernández with a clever run between the center backs. He rounded off the move with a tidy finish, but his celebrations ended quickly as the assistant referee raised his flag to chalk off the goal. Replays indicated dos Santos timed his run to perfection,
The early foray prompted a modest revival from the out-of-sorts Cameroonians. Benoit Assou-Ekotto created a gilt-edged opportunity for Eto’o nine minutes later after reaching the byline and turning back toward the near post, but the veteran striker could only curl his effort onto the outside of the near post.
Cameroon’s riposte did not alter the balance of the proceedings on the whole with Mexico largely in control in possession. Those efforts – and, in particular, the ability to test Cameroon’s shape by using the wingbacks – eventually prompted yet another controversial incident inside the penalty area.
Paul Aguilar caused the chaos with a swerving corner kick from the right. A gaggle of players attempted to nod on at the near post. The ball eventually skimmed off a defender en route to the back post where Dos Santos turned home from close range. The flag once again went up for offside with the replays once again rendering the verdict incorrect.
The halftime interval offered Mexico an opportunity to find its footing and release the frustrations created by those decisions. Their work in the early stages of the second half lacked some of the vibrancy from those early exchanges, but their persistence ultimately paid off with a well-worked opener just after the hour.
It possessed all of the direct and incisiveness hallmarks of a Mexico side. Quick combination play carried the ball from the right flank through the attacking half to create another opportunity for dos Santos between the center backs. Dos Santos forced a fine save from Itandje on his attempt, but Peralta followed intelligently and swept home the rebound to give El Tri its deserved lead.
Cameroon attempted to snatch a point in the late stages and threw Pierre Webo into the fray as it finally pushed for an equalizer in the late stages. Those efforts placed Mexico under some duress as Memo Ochoa saved a header in second-half stoppage time, but they were not enough to atone for a poor overall display or prevent El Tri from collecting its deserved victory at the final whistle.