Mexico should have won by a greater margin in its 1-0 World Cup-opening victory over Cameroon, but two wrongly disallowed goals by Giovani Dos Santos meant El Tri had to work a bit more to earn three valuable points.
Speaking of which, here are three valuable points on the game from my end (at least one hopes):
• This was the best Mexico has played in almost a year
It was hard to be confident about Mexico heading into this tournament, not least because the past year has been filled with so many poor results. But Miguel Herrera’s men took it to Cameroon from the start. Dos Santos in particular was a menace, though he appeared to have offended the soccer gods when he had not one but two first-half goals wrongly disallowed for offside by the officiating crew led by Colombian referee Wilmar Roldán.
But instead of melting down, Dos Santos kept working and was part of Mexico’s goal, blistering a shot that rebounded off goalkeeper Charles Itandje before being cleaned up by Oribe Peralta, who so often is in the right spot at the right time. Both Croatia and Mexico have played better than expected so far, which means Group A should have a dogfight for second place behind Brazil.
• Cameroon was horrible
Glass-half-empty Mexican fans may wonder if it was Cameroon’s abject performance that made El Tri look good. It’s hard to know what coach Volker Finke’s game plan was, since the Indomitable Lions were so often disjointed all over the field. Their problems weren’t for a lack of effort but more so an absence of efficiency. When Cameroon needed a goal in the second half, there just weren’t enough numbers moving downfield until very late in the game (when a couple chances finally came).
The African teams were extremely disappointing at World Cup 2010, with only Ghana advancing from the group stage, and for those of us hoping for African improvement this year, Cameroon’s fiasco is hardly a good sign. Yet again, the Cameroonian players had a dispute with their federation about World Cup bonuses, and yet again they’re struggling when it counts.
• Let’s hope the story doesn’t continue being the officiating
Two World Cup games down, and two games in which one of the main storylines is poor officiating. You were hoping officiating wouldn’t be the main talking point here after Brazil had a ridiculous penalty provide the turning point in its win against Croatia. But once again there were some awful calls. Dos Santos should have had two goals in the first half, not to mention a penalty that wasn’t called. It’s enough to make you wish the best referees in the world were at the World Cup, not just the guys who fulfill geographic diversity.