Mexico overcomes the rain (and the referees) to earn three points in Group A in a 1-0 victory against Cameroon.
Byline: Kevin Buckles Jr, Sports Editor
NATAL–Despite sloppy weather conditions and questionable first half calls that offset goals, the Mexican national team poured it on Cameroon at the Arena das Dunas Friday afternoon, winning 1-0.
Mexico took firm control of the match from the beginning, dominating possession and striking shots at goal early and often, but two debatable referee calls nearly doomed them from the start.
The first questionable call came in the 11 minute when Mexico defender Diego Reyes, set up a play by sending a cross near the right corner of the penalty box in the area of Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje.
Before the ball reached the goalie, Mexico forward Giovani Don Santos, who appeared to be onside, sprinted past Cameroon’s last line of defense and darted a high shot straight into the back of the net, putting his team on the board first.
However, assistant referee Wilmar Roldan saw Dos Santos approach the ball too soon and raised his flag, signaling an offsides penalty, negating the goal.
Just 18 minutes later, in the 29 minute, Dos Santos again looked as if he had broken the 0-0 tie to give Mexico the lead with a header into the back right corner of the net off of a corner kick.
But once more, the same referee lifted his flag to signal another offsides penalty, infuriating Dos Santos and Mexico Head Coach Miguel Herrera.
“The referee took away two goals that were clear,” Herrera told reporters after the game. “We would have been able to leave with a bigger lead but the team did not get desperate. I’ll have a quiet sleep tonight, as always.”
Mexico did not become desperate, but they certainly remained as aggressive and in control as they had been demonstrating from the start.
In the 61 minute, Mexico midfielder Hector Herrera was slicing his way through the Cameroon defense in the middle of the field where he scooted a pass up to a cutting Dos Santos at the top of the penalty box.
Dos Santos then blazed past defenders and sent a bullet towards the goal; his shot was blocked, but not secured, by Cameroon goalie Itandje. The loose ball was found by trailing Mexican forward Oribe Peralta, who then sent the ball into the low back corner of the net, right past a helpless Itandje.
Peralta’s goal as a result of Dos Santos’ efforts was enough for Mexico to hang on for the remaining 29 minutes of the match to clinch the victory.
“Despite difficult circumstances, we managed to push forward and put on a nice display,” said Dos Santos after the game. “Playing at the World Cup is always a unique experience, and I’m grateful to the coach for the trust he placed in me. I feel good – I’m happy and motivated.”
Although Coach Herrera’s decision to bring Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez off of the bench to begin the tournament sent shockwaves through the soccer world, Mexico did not seem to miss his presence at any point during the match before he entered the game in the 73 minute.
Ironically enough, it was Chicharito’s replacement in the starting lineup, Oribe Peralta, who ended up scoring the game-winning goal.
Cameroon was simply overmatched in this game, constantly on their heels and unable to maintain possessions for long periods at a time. Despite Cameroon’s apparent poor play, their head coach, Volker Finke, still believed his team at least deserved a draw.
“We’re very disappointed with the result; I think we deserved a draw,” said Finke in his post-game comments.“There’s still all to play for, though, and we’re going to head into the Croatia match with the intention of winning.”
The Mexicans will look to continue their winning ways in a huge test on Tuesday versus juggernaut and host nation Brazil at Estadio Castelao, while Cameroon will attempt to rebound against Croatia on Wednesday at Arena Amazonia.
To see the highlights of this game, click on this link http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=intl:1878138, video provided by ESPN FC.