Mexico put the ball into the net three times in rain-soaked Natal on Friday, but only one of them counted. That was good enough for a 1-0 win over Cameroon in their opening match and three crucial points for El Tri as they try to get out of Group A along with Cup favorites Brazil.
PERALTA PAYS OFF: Mexico manager Miguel Herrera's decision to start Oribe Peralta ahead of Javier “Chicharito” Hernández paid off handsomely in the 61st minute. Peralta's left-footed putback wasn't pretty, but it was efficient – and despite Mexico's difficulty in defending set pieces throughout the match, it stood as the winner.
SO DOES MEMO, LATE: Guillermo Ochoa, given the nod in goal by Herrera on Thursday, saved points for his club in second-half stoppage time with a big-time stop on Benjamin Moukandjo. Ochoa leaped to his right to turn away Moukandjo's header into the upper corner, preserving El Tri's mark of never conceding in stoppage time during the group stage.
FLAGS ON GIO: Twice in the first half, Mexico's Giovani dos Santos thought he had put El Tri up 1-0. Both times – off Héctor Herrera's cross in the 11th minute and off a corner kick in the 30th – inexplicable offside flags went up to wipe out the apparent goals. The second was the most mysterious, as the only one who could have touched the corner ball before dos Santos buried it was one of Cameroon's players, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
NO PK: The Indomitable Lions also had lamented a decision – or, in this case, a no-call – that denied them a shot at going up 1-0 in the 24th minute. Choupo-Moting appeared to get pulled down in the area on a corner kick, but Colombian referee Wilmer Roldán allowed play to continue.
LION IN WINTER: Even at 33, Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o is still dangerous in space. He gave his side their best shot from the run of play in the 21st minute, when he got onto Benoit Assou-Ekotto's pass and drove a left-footed shot off of the left post.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Dos Santos, Mexico. No matter what the flags said, he was in the right spots on attack all afternoon. More importantly, he showed a much-needed willingness to get back and defend – something that has not always marked his game in the past.