By TYLER GRAY
Two matches in and the World Cup referees are not off to a good start.
Two wrongly disallowed goals in the first half did not deter Mexico, which finally got one to stick in the second half, winning the match 1-0 over Cameroon thanks to Oribe Peralta’s followup shot in the 61st minute.
Mexico came out of the opening whistle with electricity, throwing a handful of crosses into the box in just the first 10 minutes. It seemed like they were anxious to prove that they belonged at the World Cup and it didn’t take them long to do so, or so they thought.
The Mexicans were denied a clear goal in the 11th minute when Hector Herrera played a pinpoint cross to forward Giovani Dos Santos, who was sandwiched between two Cameroon defenders. Dos Santos got free and put his foot to the ball to blast it into the net, but was called for offside. Replays would later show that the decision was wrong.
Mexico remained undeterred however and continued to look bright in the attack, seemingly spending all their time in Cameroon’s half of the field.
They would have another goal taken off the scoreboard in the 30th minute.
The ball was sent into the box off a corner kick and headed on by a Cameroon defender. It was Dos Santos again who reacted expertly and got a head to the deflected corner to put it into the back of the net. The assistant referee again raised his flag for offside, even though the unlucky Mexican forward did everything right.
Cameroon had its chances to capitalize on sub-par officiating but was unable to do so.
Assou-Ekotto nearly stole the lead in the 58th minute when his free kick was deflected by a Mexican defender. Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was completely caught out and could only watch as the shot barely went wide of the goal.
Earlier in the first half, Choupu-Moting’s header off a corner was blocked by a Mexican defender and there was a frantic scramble right in front of the goal, but Cameroon was unable to put a threatening shot on frame before Mexico cleared it.
Mexico finally got their long-deserved goal in the 61st minute.
It was a beautiful buildup from El Tri that led to the breakthrough. Dos Santos was again denied on his initial shot, but the save spilled to Peralta, who slipped his shot past a diving Itandje to give Mexico the 1-0 lead. The pro-Mexico crowd seemed to let out a collective sigh of relief as they erupted in cheers at the breakthrough.
Down a goal and running out of time, Cameroon didn’t throw many numbers forward and rarely looked threatening in the second half. Cameroon, however, got one last chance to the level the match in the 91st minute.
Midfielder Benjamin Moukandjo snapped a header back across the face of goal. Ochoa dove, snatched the ball out of the air and held on.
The officiating at the 2014 World Cup was already called into question in the opening match between Croatia and Brazil and this match won’t do anything the quiet rising tide of questions. It’s possible to blame the weather for the mistaken calls given that Mexico and Cameroon were playing in a torrential downpour, but the fact remains that two relatively straightforward goals were called offside in a World Cup match.
Despite the referees’ best efforts, Mexico got the full three points and the controversy will likely be dampened because of it.