Featured Matches
Previous
Seattle Sounders FC
Los Angeles
ESPN2 2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Richmond Kickers
Crystal Palace
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Manchester United
Internazionale
Jul 29, 2014 11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Real Madrid
AS Roma
Jul 29, 2014 1:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Norwich City
Nice
6:45 PM GMT
Game Details
Richmond Kickers
Crystal Palace
11:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Brøndby
Silkeborg IF
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
AIK
Falkenbergs FF
5:00 PM GMT
Game Details
BK Hacken
Djurgarden
5:05 PM GMT
Game Details
Seattle Sounders FC
Los Angeles
ESPN2 2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Tigre
All Boys
6:00 PM GMT
Game Details
Belgrano de Córdoba
Independiente
12:15 AM GMT
Game Details
Next

Mexico: New beginnings

Team Assessment Jul 1, 2014
Read

El Tri have come a long way

Mexico Jul 1, 2014
Read

Five Aside: Round of 16 records fall

Five Aside Jun 29, 2014
Read

Mexico's dream dies

The Match Jun 29, 2014
Read
 Posted by Tom Marshall
Jun 14, 2014

What Mexico's win means for Brazil clash

Oribe Peralta's goal was enough for Mexico on a rainy afternoon in Natal.

GUADALAJARA -- A nation breathing a huge sigh of relief.

That's how Mexico's 1-0 victory over Cameroon on Friday feels the morning after.

"El Tri relieves pressure; dominates Cameroon," read the headline in one Guadalajara newspaper. Another was: "Super Tri-umph."

The win against the African nation provided answers to lingering questions about the nature of this Mexico side and its potential at Brazil 2014. Most importantly, it handed El Tri three points to guarantee that both remaining Group A games, against Brazil and Croatia, will be competitive affairs with something at stake.

- Carlisle: Mexico's dominant midfield

- Ramos: Herrera picks up Chepo's mess

- Hernandez: Grades: Persistence pays off

- Canales: Mexico overcome the elements

Also, the victory saved Mexico the embarrassment of being the first team to limp out of the tournament, which was the secret fear of every Mexico fan who had looked closely enough at the fixture list and realized a poor start against Cameroon followed by a match against hosts Brazil could spell major trouble.

Such negative thoughts might seem exaggerated now, but before the game, Mexico had never defeated an African opponent at a World Cup, and no one was quiet sure which version of El Tri would show up. Would it be a performance in line with the Olympic 2012 gold medal final, in which El Tri pressed and harried opponents and deservedly overcame a superior Brazil side? Or would it be the Mexico of 2013, which was divided, lacking confidence and in utter shambles when the pressure was on in qualifying?

On this day, it was much nearer the former. The performance left a pleasant taste.

Mexico might be a long way from being the best team at this World Cup, but there was a gritty honesty about Friday's display. What nation's fans wouldn't enjoy a side that work so hard, with stats showing the team covered much more ground than its opponents, and had 58 percent possession, which they used to score three goals (even if two were incorrectly ruled out)?

Man of the match Giovani Dos Santos -- a player known more for his flair than work ethic -- clocked up almost 10 kilometers as a striker, and the much-maligned Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez had more touches than anyone else on the pitch over the 90 minutes.

In midfield, Hector Herrera was everywhere, as was Andres Guardado, stifling Cameroon's intent and laying the platform for Mexico's domination.

The play was also fluid. It came down both flanks and with intricate one-touch passing through the middle, such as during Oribe Peralta's 61st-minute goal. Even the quiet Guillermo Ochoa in goal got his chance for glory with a solid, late save.

The Mexican team now somehow makes sense, and there is a context, following Brazil's 3-1 victory against Croatia on Thursday. Mexico's task is much clearer, and there is a path out of Group A.

Win against Brazil or Croatia, and Mexico is in the Round of 16 and potentially 90 minutes away from its stated goal of the quarterfinal for the first time since 1986 -- and the first time ever outside of Mexico.

It was noticeable that the #QuieroCreer ("I want to believe") hashtag, which the Mexican Federation has been promoting in recent weeks, has now been changed to #YaCreo ("I now believe").

The change neatly sums up where El Tri is after the Cameroon win.

Not that either of Mexico's remaining group games will be easy. Bookmakers have Mexico as outsiders for both of the matches, despite the positives from El Tri's opener.

Mexico fans had plenty to cheer about following El Tri's wet and soggy win in their World Cup opener.
Mexico fans had plenty to cheer about following El Tri's wet and soggy win in their World Cup opener.

A performance of equal or more tenacity will be required against Brazil, with defending from set pieces again something Herrera has to look at and practice on the training ground in the coming days.

Hector Herrera, Guardado and Jose Juan Vazquez will have to rest and be prepared to work just as hard to not let Brazil's talented attacking players such Neymar, Oscar and Hulk receive the ball deep with space to run at Mexico's slow defense.

El Tri also has the important disadvantage of having one fewer day to rest and prepare.

And Mexico had better hope for more breaks from the officials, with Dos Santos' two disallowed goals producing a wave of headlines worldwide about the standard of refereeing at the World Cup, coming as they did off the back of Brazil's dubious game-changing penalty against Croatia.

El Tri's starting XI will likely stay the same. There's no need to change things. The team functioned better than it has for any other game under Herrera. He deserves credit.

There are few guarantees from here on. But Mexico fans can at least be assured that their team will play with dedication and commitment.

When you look back at the qualifying campaign, that represents a giant stride for El Tri.

Tom Marshall

Tom Marshall has been based in Guadalajara since 2008 and has specialized in writing about Mexican football ever since. As well as contributing to ESPN Insider's Mexico National Team blog (@ESPNtri), he co-hosts The Mexican Soccer Show podcast and can be found on twitter @MexicoWorldCup

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.