Mexico overcame bad weather, poor refereeing and their own jitters to earn a positive start in the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Cameroon in Group A play. Oribe Peralta was the hero with the goal, but many players contributed to a game that will give El Tri fans hope of a good showing in this World Cup.
It was a tentative start for Mexico in some ways, given the poor conditions, but eventually the team gained the greater share of possession.
That led to an early chance in the 11th minute by Giovani Dos Santos, who was probably Mexico's best player on the night. He took a pass from Hector Herrera and whipped in a shot that got past Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje. The offside flag was up, however, even though replays showed no such infraction.
The hard rain falling on the field might be the perfect visual metaphor for the torrent of complaints directed at the World Cup referees in this tournament. Now it was Mexico's turn to be aggrieved, and to be in company with Croatia was no consolation.
Cameroon seemed to heed the wake-up call and generated their own chances on goal, doing well on counters to get the ball in the box. But keeper Guillermo Ochoa and his defenders were up to the task, though on one occasion it was especially dicey, with the ball pinging around Mexico's box before it was finally cleared.
Mexico had another opportunity nullified by their own fault in the 27th minute. A failure of communication between Hector Moreno and Rafael Marquez resulted in a weak header on goal by Marquez when Moreno had a better play on the ball. Between the referee and their own miscues, Mexico couldn't catch a break.
However, Dos Santos was not done creating chances for El Tri. The next one came on a corner that deflected slightly off a Cameroon defender. Dos Santos tucked the ball into the goal, but it was denied by yet another offside call. This one sent people running for the FIFA rulebook, but whatever consensus was reached, the referee had already made the only call that mattered.
As the time ticked away and the game seemed to be slipping away from Mexico, the next question became whether a player would be injured before a goal was scored. Despite not hesitating on offside calls, referee Wilmar Roldan seemed shy about reaching for any cards, even as the physical play in the rain increased.
Another question was whether Mexico coach Miguel Herrera, fuming on the sidelines, could keep his cool as his frustration clearly mounted.
One positive for El Tri was that the squad's possession play was clearly limiting the chances by Cameroon's star striker, Samuel Eto'o.
As the second half began with the score 0-0, Mexico tightened up on attacks on the Cameroon goal.
Dos Santos was once again in the thick of things in the 61st. Again, he took a Herrera pass and fired a hard shot that forced Itandje into a sprawling save. Itandje couldn't control the rebound, which fell to Peralta trailing the play. Peralta made no mistake, firing the ball into the goal to finally give Mexico a deserved lead.
Peralta isn't the fastest or most athletic striker on the team. He doesn't play in Europe like Dos Santos or Javier Hernandez. Peralta just gets the job done for Mexico, time and again. That's why he starts, and all the other strikers vie for the chance to be his partner up front.
Even a slim lead is good only if it holds up, however, and Cameroon tried desperately to equalize. A header by Benjamin Moukandjo in stoppage time was headed for the corner of Mexico's goal when a diving Ochoa intervened and, at the same time, justified Herrera's choice of him as starter. It was a fantastic save, and even in the wet conditions, Ochoa hung on to the ball to deny any rebound chance.
Despite the many obstacles, Mexico was able to persevere and triumph. Such determination bodes well for future matches.