In a match where victory was essential for either side to have a realistic chance of progressing from Group B, Mexico prevailed 1-0. Oribe Peralta delivered the only goal in the 61st< minute, finishing an easy chance from a rebound off a Giovanni Dos Santos strike. The first half saw Mexico attack freely down the flanks with the two wingbacks terrorising the Cameroon defense. Unfortunately, the real story of the opening 45 minutes was the officiating. On two occasions Dos Santos was denied a goal by an incorrect offside decision. Both teams lacked sharpness in the opening period and the defending did not inspire confidence, although, Hector Moreno made several vital interventions for the CONCACAF giants.
The second half continued in a similar fashion. Cameroon could not sustain possession in attack and Mexico continued to probe and penetrate effectively. Once Mexico had the lead Cameroon faded like the referee’s white spray in the Natal rain. Stephane Mbia was close to the only exception, as he was not only powerful but distributed the ball intelligently. The closest Cameroon came to hitting the back of the net was from a deflected free kick from Benoit Assou Ekotto which just drifted wide of the right post.
Tactically, Mexico operated with a back three system with the two wingbacks pushing forward. Using a back three against a quick strike side like Cameroon seemed risky. However, the African side failed to transition quickly from defense to attack, allowing the wingbacks to recover and make the back 3 a back 5. In attack, Samuel Eto’o was essentially a lone ranger. The Cameroon heat map demonstrates this quite vividly. Eto’o is no longer equipped to forage alone upfront and if Cameroon is to have any chance against Brazil and Croatia they will have to find a way to link the midfield with their talisman.
Cameroon will feel that their tournament is close to finished after just 90 minutes. It was an uninspired effort from a team capable of more. In contrast, Mexico put a turbulent qualifying campaign behind them with performance that ranged from functional to inspired. The final score could have been 3-0 which would have been a result with greater shine. In any event, The Mexicans are now well positioned in what will likely be a battle for 2nd place with Croatia.
Man of the match: Giovani Dos Santos. The former Tottenham player could have had a more memorable game if key decisions had gone differently. He played with pace and made incisive runs behind the Cameroon defense. With Dos Santos, Peralta and Javier Hernandez, ‘El Tri’ do not want for options in attack.