The ball hit the back of the net three time in the first half, but all three would-be goals – two for Mexico, one for Cameroon – were disallowed. The teams had to wait until the 61st minute for a goal to stand, when Oribe Peralta gave Mexico the lead. That goal proved to be enough, as Mexico picked up a 1-0 victory in their first game in the 2014 World Cup.
In the pouring rain in the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Mexico and Cameroon closed out the first round of Group A play with a game marred by controversy. Giovani dos Santos, who was one of Mexico’s best attacking threats and perhaps their man of the match, put the ball in the back of the net for the first time in the 11th minute and again in the 29th minute, only to have the flag go up both times. The first was a tight call; dos Santos looked level, but only level. However, ties are supposed to be called in favor of the attacking player.
The 29th-minute disallowed goal came from a set piece, a corner kick. Dos Santos headed the ball home after it was inadvertently flicked on by Cameroonian defender Eric Choupo Moting. The defender’s touch should have rendered any offside decision moot, and yet the flag went up again, turning Dos Santos practically apoplectic.
Sandwiched in between those was another offside decision at the opposite end of the field. In the 15th minute, Mexico was unable to clear their lines following a Cameroon set piece, and Choupo Moting poked the ball home between Ochoa and the post. However, he was in fact in an offside position when the ball was played to him, and it was correctly disallowed.
Despite their frustration at the halftime score – 0-0 instead of 2-0 – Mexico was able to keep their emotions under control and keep playing without giving in to frustration. When the breakthrough came just after the hour mark, it was well-deserved. Dos Santos was involved once again, as he raced in on goal only to have his shot stopped by the goalkeeper. Nevertheless, Itandje parried the ball instead of holding it cleanly, which allowed Oribe Peralta to pounce on the rebound and slot it home.
A sense of relief settled over El Tri after that goal; despite the poor offside calls, they had their lead. Cameroon was only threatening in spurts and rarely looked likely to find an equalizer. If another goal was going to come, the feeling was that it would come for the North Americans, and in fact Javier “Chicharito” Hernández really should have made it 2-0 in stoppage time, but his shot went wide.
With the 1-0 win, Mexico picks up 3 points, which leaves the Group A standings looking like this:
In the next round of Group A games, Brazil will face Mexico on June 17th, while Cameroon and Croatia will face off on June 18th.
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa, Francisco Rodríguez, Rafael Márquez, Héctor Moreno, Paul Aguilar, Héctor Herrera (Carlos Salcido 91′), Juan José Vázquez, Andrés Guardado (Marco Fabián 68′), Miguel Layún, Giovani dos Santos, Oribe Peralta (Javier Hernández 73′).
Cameroon: Charles Itange, Cédric Djeugoue (Dany Nounkeu 46′), Nicolas Nkoulou, Aurelien Chedjou, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Stéphane Mbia, Alexandre Song (Pierre Webó 79′), Enoh Eyong, Benjamin Moukandjo, Eric Choupo Moting, Samuel Eto’o.