MEXICO got just rewards for their attacking intent when Oribe Peralta’s 61st minute strike gave them a 1-0 win over Cameroon in their World Cup opener at a rain-saturated Dunas arena.
Scorers: Mexico; Peralta (61)
The Mexicans had two Giovani dos Santos efforts controversially disallowed in the first half but Peralta’s goal means they will now feel they have a good chance of progressing from Group A, which also includes hosts Brazil and Croatia.
Cameroon, who only arrived in Brazil after a player strike was averted by last-minute negotiations, had packed their midfield in an attempt to stifle the Mexicans and lone striker Samuel Eto’o failed to find the goal with his few opportunities.
Mexico came out to attack as coach Miguel Herrera had promised and “El Tri” dominated the opening exchanges with wingbacks Miguel Layun and Paul Aguilar getting plenty of space out wide.
Dos Santos first found the net with a neat volley after 11 minutes but was called back despite appearing to be in line with the defenders.
Cameroon could have taken the lead after 21 minutes when full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto beat two defenders and found Eto’o in the box but the striker was able only to hit the outside of the post with his shot.
Eto’o had another chance three minutes later but was unable to control the ball when Eric-Maxim Choupo Moting headed it down to his feet in the six yard box.
Mexico should have been in front after 29 minutes when Andres Guardado’s free kick from the right found Rafael Marquez and Hector Moreno unmarked at the far post but the opportunity went begging.
If the decision to deny dos Santos a first goal could be called a marginal call, the second after half an hour was a clear error. A corner swung in from the left was flicked on by one Cameroon defender and, as another raced off the line, dos Santos managed to turn back and head the ball into the net.
However, referee Wilmar Roldan had apparently called a foul in front of goalkeeper Charles Itandje, leaving the Mexicans disbelieving as their celebrations were once again cut short.
As the rain continued to lash down, Peralta almost broke the deadlock three minutes after the break when dos Santos’s flick played him through on goal only for Itandje to block his shot with his legs.
Cameroon’s Assou-Ekotto had a free kick deflected off the Mexico wall and just wide after 58 minutes but the game did not have to wait much longer for its first goal.
Dos Santos was released through the middle of the Cameroon defence and when goalkeeper Itandje managed to stop his low drive, Peralta was first to react to the loose ball and steered it into the empty net, sending Herrera and the thousands of Mexican fans into paroxysms of joy.
Cameroon continued to threaten from set pieces and Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was forced to make a fine save to prevent Benjamin Moukandjo equalising with a header in stoppage time.
Branded traitors at home after the strike over bonuses, the Cameroon players had hoped to answer their critics on the pitch and a fifth successive World Cup defeat was not what that had been looking for.
Cameroon have now won just one World Cup match since becoming the first African team to reach the quarter-finals in 1990.
“We could have scored more, but unfortunately we’re not used to these conditions,” Herrera said.
Of his side’s two controversially disallowed goals he added: “Frankly, the refereeing took away two clear goals, but at the end of the day you’ve got to work for it.
“We’re delighted to get to the next match with three points and the win puts us in very high spirits.”
Mexico: Ochoa, Layun, Moreno, Marquez, Rodriguez, Aguilar, Guardado (Fabian 69), Vazquez, Herrera (Salcido 90), Giovani, Peralta (Hernandez 73). Subs not used: Corona, Reyes, Jimenez, Pulido, Ponce, Brizuela, Aquino,Pena,Talavera.
Cameroon: Itandje, Djeugoue (Nounkeu 46), N’Koulou, Chedjou, Assou-Ekotto, Song (Webo 79), Mbia, Enoh, Moukandjo, Eto’o, Choupo-Moting. Subs not used: Feudjou, Aboubakar, Makoun, Bedimo, Fabrice, Salli, Matip,Nyom,N’Djock.
Referee: Wilmar Roldan Perez (Col)