Mexico's win against all odds
NATAL, Brazil -- An epic day. Almost perfect. In every sense. Mexico 1-0 Cameroon.
Epic because victory was based on possession and on good football; because it had to be secured regardless of two refereeing errors, as two legitimate goals were disallowed, and hesitation regarding yellow cards against the Africans; and because the torrential rain almost swamped their desire to keep the ball on the ground.
Oribe Peralta did justice to the injustice both consumed and consummated upon Giovani dos Santos, from whom two legitimate goals were snatched because referees erred in calling a nonexistent offside on the Villarreal man.
An unblemished afternoon because they contained the opponents' mastery of speed and skill without fear, without reserve and always going forward, even when the 1-0 was an incomplete smile of victory.
No complaints, because its midfield was blameless, because the desperate defense -- sometimes harassed -- managed to resolve the attacks of Cameroon.
It might be unfair to highlight anyone, but Andrés Guardado's determination and dos Santos' intelligence were a perfect echo of the work done by Miguel Layún and Paul Aguilar and a powerful ball recovery in the back and at the front by Héctor Herrera.
"It has never rained like that in Natal, never. It's a gift," said a volunteer from FIFA to explain the storm in Natal on a day when there were no surprises on the field.
- Carlisle: Mexico's dominant midfield
- Marshall: Five things we learned
- Hernandez: Grades: Persistence pays off
- Canales: Mexico overcome the elements
Cameroon assembled its team in a 4-5-1 formation and the frugal hope of a counterattack. Mexico did its bit: Layún and Aguilar were hard workers on the wings.
El Tri hunted form the beginning, but the shots of Layún, Aguilar, Herrera and dos Santos contained more gunpowder of anxiety and nerves than of certainty.
And then, when dos Santos found the net -- striking the ball with the inside of the foot after 11 minutes -- the euphoria was annihilated with the assistant referee's flag raised from the sideline: nonexistent offside.
As the minutes went by, Cameroon lost respect and responded. In the space of three minutes, starting at Minute 21, they penetrated Mexico's area, and Samuel Eto'o sent chills up the post and played balls into the penalty area forcing desperate clearances by the Mexican defense.
In response, dos Santos made a second salute to the net, but the Mexican goal was wrongfully disallowed.
In minutes of agony, those in which tragedies and dramas occur, Cameroon wisely retreated again and confronted the El Tri attacks and the rain.
Mexico closed in on the Cameroon goal while being alert against a counterattack, especially because, although he delivered, Guardado failed to cancel the attacks on both sides by Benjamin Moukandjo.
The rain intensified, and so did the frenzy of Cameroon. Mexico maintained its bearings throughout the game.
With the Aztec team imposing control, passing the ball and then mounting it on the vertigo, they kept Cameroon, who could find neither the ball nor a shortcut to goalie Guillermo Ochoa's net, in desperation.
With the game map in hand, Mexico's persistence found the Promised Land that the refs had seized from them twice.
And it occurred with the freshness of the vertical game. Herrera found dos Santos, whose cross-shot was just barely swatted down by the goalie. And then Peralta, the absentee, the absent-minded one, the stricken one, the persecuted one, arrives with the appointment that he has with the Goddess of Opportunity and the cold blood he has to define the inevitable. One to zero after 61 minutes.
And Das Dunas Stadium experienced its own human dunes, quicksand in green, who shudder in the stands in disorder, the full cry of the goal, with the imminent hope of victory, the debut. The cry of a goal is transformed into a magnificent prayer of faith.
Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera opted for the following off the bench: Marco Fabián for Guardado and Javier "Chicarito" Hernandez for Peralta. A bold, fearless, generous wager, not to speculate on the timidity of the 1-0 score but rather to dare for the consummation of the deed.
At Minute 91, when tragedies often occur, when Benjamin shot to Ochoa's right corner, the Mexican goalkeeper was dressed in glory. History consummated.
The cry became one of disappointment in the 92nd minute, when, in a perfect pass, Hernández sent it to the third floor of this stadium of only two levels.
Now, to contemplate on Brazil and prepare for what comes next at the World Cup.