Justice served as Mexico win
(Oribe Peralta 61)
Justice was done at Natal this morning (Singapore time) as Mexico overturned Cameroon, in spite of another desperate display from the match officials.
Oribe Peralta struck the second-half winner, but only after Mexico had seen two legitimate Giovanni dos Santos goals ruled out.
On Thursday night, Croatian manager Niko Kovac suggested that everyone should just “go home”, if the officials weren’t going to make the right decisions.
This morning, had it not been for Peralta, Mexico coach Miguel Herrera would have happily shared a taxi with Kovac to the airport.
The controversy was quick to develop. After just 11 minutes, Hector Herrera found dos Santos in the penalty area and the former Tottenham man volleyed the ball into the back of the net with extreme precision.
Up went the flag, and yet dos Santos was level, if not slightly in front of the last defender.
On the half-hour, Eric-Maxim Choupo- Moting’s attempt to clear a Mexican corner only sent the ball backwards, into the path of dos Santos who smartly headed home. Again, up went the flag.
On the touchline, Herrera was incandescent with rage and you can hardly blame him. This had long been identified as the game that Mexico could not afford to lose.
Having qualified in chaotic style, sacking three managers, almost finishing below Panama and requiring an intercontinental play-off to book their place at the World Cup, expectations were low.
Beating Brazil would take a miracle. Croatia, as the world saw on Thursday, would pose a serious challenge. This was Mexico’s best chance of three points.
Cameroon are well remembered for their exploits in the 1990 World Cup, when they surprised everyone by reaching the quarter-finals.
Since that incredible run, they’ve won only a single World Cup match.
Torn apart by internal struggles, a familiar story, the players actually refused to board the plane for Brazil until a row about bonuses had been resolved satisfactorily.
You could read much into the sight of Samuel Eto’o before the game, holding a very public pre-match team talk while even his manager Volker Finke stood and listened.
There’s no doubt where the power lies in this team, but he is a faded force now. The touch is still there, the intelligent movement still remains, but the spark of pace that allowed him to bypass defenders has gone.
It was Eto’o who had Cameroon’s best chance in open play, latching onto a fine ball from Benoit Assou-Ekotto, but driving his shot into the ground and back off the outside of the post.
For much of the game, however, his team sat deep, sometimes with a flat back six. When they came forward, more often than not it was only to launch themselves into a heavy, potentially ruinous challenge.
The 1990 side won the hearts of the world. This year’s squad will not do the same.
Cameroon brought Galatasaray’s Dany Nounkeu on at half-time in an effort to shore up their defence but, within two minutes, they had Charles Itandje to thank for a reaction stop from Peralta.
With the exception of a deflected free-kick from Assou-Ekotto, they had few opportunities to speak of and thus there was a certain inevitability about Mexico’s breakthrough on the hour.
For all their numbers, Cameroon’s defence could get nowhere near dos Santos, but again Itandje was on hand to block the shot. But this time the rebound fell to Peralta, who slotted home his seventh goal in his last nine competitive games for his country.
It was no less than he, or his country deserved.
We scored two nice goals which were denied by the referee, but I just tell my players to focus on the match and not be affected by the referee. When Peralta put the ball in, my first response was to look at the referee and I became relaxed only when I saw the referee didn’t raise his flag up.
- Mexico coach Miguel Herrera