Oribe Peralta was the hero as Mexico edged Cameroon in a pulsating Group A game that somehow finished with only one goal. Three goals were ruled out in the first half before the 30-year-old striker slotted home a rebound in the 61st minute in Natal to send Mexico second in their FIFA World Cup™ pool, behind Brazil on goal difference.
Miguel Herrera’s men immediately took the game to their opponents, and only a series of sliding interceptions prevented the Mexicans going clean through on goal,Fifa.com reports.
Giovanni dos Santos did ripple the net in the tenth minute, volleying home Hector Herrera’s right-wing cross, but the linesman’s flag maintained the deadlock. It was then Cameroon’s turn to have a goal ruled out for the same reason, with Eric Choupo Moting having strayed just past the last defender.
Cameroon had now found their rhythm, and after a purposeful, pacy burst down the left from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Samuel Eto’o’s first-time shot crashed against the post and went wide.
Mexico had a great chance on 26 minutes. A free-kick completely exposed Cameroon and appeared set to give Hector Moreno a free header, just yards out. As the in-flight Espanyol defender readied himself to make contact, however, his leaping team-mate Rafael Marquez flicked the ball out for a goal-kick.
Minutes later, following a corner, Dos Santos fired home a loose ball, only to see it ruled out once again, meaning a pulsating first-half finished goalless.
The frenetic pace carried on into the second half, and within minutes Oribe Peralta went clean through on goal, only for goalkeeper Charles Itandje to make himself big and block the shot.
Assou-Ekotto had a free-kick deflected wide, before Mexico finally made the breakthrough just past the hour. Herrera played a cute one-two in the midfield, carried the ball forward and played it into Dos Santos. The diminutive No10 took a touch and shot across goal and, though a diving Itandje saved the shot, Peralta was on hand to stoke the rebound into the empty net. The spectators, many of whom were sporting Mexico jerseys, erupted.
Cameroon attempted to get back into the game and came closest to an equaliser in the final minute when Ochoa saved superbly to deny Benjamin Moukandjo.
Manchester United's Javier Hernandez spurned a golden opportunity to double Mexico's lead in stoppage time, but blazed over from short range.
THE MATCH AS IT HAPPENED
FULL-TIME! The referee blows his whistle to end the match in Natal and Mexico get off to a winning start. Oribe Peralta's second-half strike was ultimately enough for the Mexican's to clinch a deserved win, but it could have been so much more comfortable. The impressive Giovani saw two goals harshly disallowed, and he could have been awarded a penalty at the end of the first half. Cameroon showed little heart and anything other than a defeat would have flattered them in truth. They now have a huge task ahead of them as they face Croatia next.
90` + 2` HERNANDEZ MISSES! Layun showed excellent determination to charge down Chedjou's clearance, before crossing in to the unmarked Hernandez, but the Manchester United blazed over from close-range.
90` MASSIVE SAVE BY OCHOA! Assou-Ekotto found an inch of space on the left and quickly fired a cross into the danger area, which Moukandjo directed towards goal with a powerful header. Ochoa, however, leaps across his goal to catch the effort in acrobatic fashion.
88` Once again, Mexico comfortably deal with the corner, but Cameroon keep them penned into their own penalty area as they desperately chase a late equaliser. Those chances are slipping away, though, and fast.
86` CRUCIAL BLOCK! Moukandjo is released into the right side of the right side of the Mexico area and hits a powerful ball into the danger area towards Eto'o, but Rodriguez crucially intercepts.
84` Mexico threaten again, this time through Giovani as he cuts in on the right and curls a teasing cross into the centre. Hernandez almost gets his head to it, but Cameroon clear in the end.
82` The Africans ultimately let their corner come to nothing and Mexico are quick to mount meaningful attack of their own. Chedjou's poor control sees Hernandez pick up possession and after playing a one-two, he cuts a pass back for Fabian. The midfielder can't quite reach it ahead of N'Koulou, though.
80` Good opportunity now for Cameroon as they win themselves a corner down the left flank. They have threatened from set-pieces in this match, so perhaps it will be their best chance of equalising.
79` SubstitutionAlex SongPierre Achille Webo
78` Giovani's calculated, chipped deliver tries to pick out a team-mate towards the back of the penalty area, but Cameroon clear and Rodriguez unsurprisingly blazes a wild long-range effort over.
77` Yellow Card Dany Nounkeu
77` Ridiculous tackle from Nounkeu as he takes Fabian out callously on Mexico's left wing. This is a very good opportunity for Mexico to potentially grab a second.
76` Giovani showcases his excellent workrate as he charges back and battles possession back from Moukandjo. The Villarreal man wins himself a free-kick in the process, taking the pressure off Mexico.
74` Substitution: O. Peralta out, Javier Hernández in
74` Mexico's goal-scorer Peralta leaves the pitch and is replaced by Javier Hernandez, who has fallen out of favour hugely in the last year.
73` Substitution: L O. Peralta out, Javier Hernández in
71` Cameroon have been disappointing down the flanks, but Moukandjo looks to grasp a rare opportunity on the right flank. The winger races forward, but his curling delivery into Eto'o is dreadful.
69` Substitution: Jose Andrés Guardado out, M. Fabián in
69` Here is Mexico's first change as the tiring Guardado is replaced by Marco Fabian, an attacking midfielder perhaps more suited to that central role.
67` Mexico must remain focused now. Cameroon already appear to be coming out of their shells a little more, but this is the Mexicans' to lose.
65` There is a brief pause in play now as Eto'o seeks medical attention on the edge of the Mexico area. He seemed to collide with his former Barcelona team-mate Marquez, but he looks to be fine.
63` Few will argue that Mexico don't deserve this. After having two goals harshly disallowed, they have continued to press and press, refusing to feel sorry for themselves. Surely Finke has to change his game plan now?
61` Goal O. Peralta
VINE: Peralta's 1-0 Goal http://t.co/WOe1Na7HkZ
— FIFA World Cup 2014 (@FIFAWorldCupTM) June 13, 2014
GOAL!!! MEXICO TAKE A DESERVED LEAD! Peralta starts the brilliant team move from a deep position and after Giovani broke into the area, seeing a shot saved by Itandje, the new America signing pounces on the rebound to break the deadlock.
59` Mexico deal with the corner with ease and race away with a counter-attack. However, Guardado takes up possession and ultimately wastes the chance, blazing a useless cross well out of the reach of everyone and anyone.
58` INCHES FROM THE BREAKTHROUGH! Assou-Ekotto's free-kick crashes into the wall, but it carries on travelling, with the deflection deceiving Ochoa and going narrowly wide of his right-hand post.
57` Yellow Card Héctor Moreno
57` Dazzling footwork by M'Bia as he breaks forward and runs at Moreno, disorienting the defender with a couple of stepovers. The Mexican commits a foul and Cameroon have a great chance from a free-kick.
56` Cynical foul from Peralta as he produces a late challenge on Song in the centre of the pitch, but again the referee stays his hand and refuses to dish out any unnecessary cards.
54` Mexico are looking a little more disciplined at the start of this half with regards to their shape. Layun and Aguilar haven't pushed forward quite so much yet, while Rodriguez, Marquez and Moreno are sitting significantly deeper.
48` GLORIOUS CHANCE FOR PERALTA! The forward produced a dangerous run to charge on to Giovani's flicked pass, but he could only fire straight at Itandje when one-on-one. Another let-off for Cameroon.
46` Substitution: Cedric Djeugoue out Dany Nounkeu in
HALF-TIME! The referee blows his whistle to end an entertaining first half in Natal. Mexico have generally been the better side and they will be bitterly disappointed not to take a lead into the break, but that has as much to do with the officials. Giovani has had two goals harshly disallowed, while the former Barcelona man could potentially have been given a penalty late on. Cameroon threatened from set-plays, but they have to improve their overall performance.
45` MEXICO DENIED A PENALTY! Giovani brilliantly gets into a dangerous position on the left and holds off Chedjou, before the Cameroon man clumsily brings his counterpart down. The referee, however, gives only a corner.
43` Mexico are enjoying a meaningful spell of possession and they quickly work the ball forward towards the attack. Eventually, Herrera plays a pass into the edge of the area for Giovani, but his first touch is poor and he can only hit his effort at a body of players.
41` NEARLY THE PERFECT PASS! Aguilar slips a fine ball in behind Cameroon defenders and Peralta bursts into the area to meet it, but Itandje is just about able to beat the forward to it.
39` M'Bia is very lucky to escape a yellow card near the centre-circle as the former Marseille man charges into the side of Guardado, crashing his forearm into the Mexican's face.
37` Mexico's dominance of possession has slipped a little in the last 10 minutes or so, with Cameroon seeing a lot more of the ball in the midfield. Song and M'Bia have been disappointing, though, with their creative influence generally stifled.
35` Disappointing delivery from Song as Rodriguez heads the ball away without any challenge on the edge of the area. Assou-Ekotto quickly picks up possession once again, but his long-range effort flies into a crowd of players and Mexico clear for good.
34` M'Bia has not got on the ball an awful lot so far, but he does now and does well to skip past Guardado. The on-loan Sevilla man wins a free-kick on the right flank, which Song will take.
32` Cameroon are getting plenty of men forward at the moment as they look to capitalise on that previous let-off. When they see the replays, they won't be able to believe their luck, but can they make the most of it?
30` ANOTHER GOAL IS DISALLOWED! Choupo-Moting flicked on a Mexico corner and Giovani nodded the ball in at the far post, but once again the assistant raises his flag for offside. However, replays clearly show the Villarreal man was in a legal position.
29` Mexico get themselves another corner as the rain continues to pour in Natal. Layun needs no invitation to get forward and he looks set to cross, but N'Koulou tackles well to concede a corner.
27` Glorious delivery by Guardado as the ball curls towards the far post. Moreno looks destined to head it in past Itandje, but Marquez takes it out of his reach with a nodded effort on the stretch and the chance goes begging.
26` Clattering challenge from Choupo-Moting as he leaves Aguilar in a heap on the floor. The Mainz man did get the ball, but the referee clearly wasn't impressed with the tackle's aggressive nature.
24` Cameroon have come back into this well and Mexico are fortunate to escape unscathed once again. This time, from an out-swinging corner, Choupo-Moting knocks a header back in towards the goal, but his effort hit a team-mate and the defenders eventually cleared after a bit of a scramble.
22` Great chance for Eto'o! Assou-Ekotto produced a lung-busting run down the left flank, evading the challenges of two Mexicans before cutting an accurate low cross into the danger area. Eto'o met the delivery with a scuffed first-time effort which narrowly went wide.
20` Vazquez is penalised for a high boot in the centre-circle, with Song on the end of the accidental kick. The referee does the right thing and keeps his cards in his pockets.
18` Great tackle by Moreno! Eto'o looked to be racing through towards the Mexican penalty area, but the Espanyol defender launched himself in with a last-ditch challenge to end the attack.
16` Once again, the ball is in the back of the net, but the whistle had long since gone. M'Bia's headed flick-on lands at the feet of Moukandjo, who slots in from an offside position.
15` Out of very little, M'Bia wins a corner down the right for Cameroon. This is an inviting situation for the Africans due to their physically-imposing players. They're all forward.
14` Cameroon are playing a dangerous game at the moment. Peralta & Co. keep threatening to spring their offside trap, but so far the officials are not doing Herrera's men any favours.
12` Mexico thought they'd taken the lead! AMarquez fires in a teasing cross from the right and Giovani coolly smashes a volley past Itandje, but it is ruled out for offside. Replays suggest it was a harsh decision.
10` Cameroon are seriously struggling at the moment. The Africans muster a rate journey forward, but Rodriguez intercepts a pass and springs a counter. Layun races on to a throughball and crosses, but again the delivery isn't good enough.
9` The Mexicans get in behind Cameroon yet again down the flanks. Layun - the left-sided wing-back - dashes on to a throughball in behind Djeugoue and gets into an excellent position, but his final pass is poor.
7` Excellent play by Mexico. Peralta and Gio forced the Cameroon defence into an error and they quickly work the ball out to Aguilar on the right. The America wing-back slides a low cross into the danger area, but a defender hooks it away.
5` While Cameroon's strategy is looking typical of coach Finke, Mexico's exuberant attacking style is evident. Wing-backs Layun and Aguilar are getting forward at every given opportunity and their centre-back trio of Maza Rodriguez, Marquez and Hector Moreno are playing exceptionally high.
4` Mexico coach Herrera is up in arms already! The former Club America tactician is raging on the touchline after the officials failed to award his side a corner.
3` Mexico have produced a lively start, though. Aguilar linked up well with Marquez down the right, playing a one-two before firing a low cross in towards the near post, but it was deflected behind.
2` Cameroon's gameplan already appears rather obvious as both Enoh and M'Bia have produced forceful tackles in the middle. Those two are likely to be key for the Africans when not in possession, but which M'Bia will show up; the one who flopped at QPR, or the one who has starred with Sevilla?
1` Here we go! Mexico get us started in gloomy Natal.
The two teams are now out on the pitch as they prepare for the national anthems.
Live update: Goal.com