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.
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.