For a long while in rainy Natal, it seemed as though the officials were once again conspiring to decide a World Cup result. Yesterday it was a suspicious penalty awarded to Brazil and a phantom foul that called back an equalizer; today it was not one, but two, dubious offsides calls that negated two Mexico goals. Had Oribe Peralta failed to be there to tap in the rebound when Giovani dos Santos’ shot was deflected by Cameroonian goalkeeper Charles Itandje in the 61st minute, the officiating might have impacted the result of another contest.
The first suspicious call came in the 11th minute. Mexico looked like it had gone up a goal when Hector Herrera blasted a volley past Itandje, but the official’s flag went up for offside. The call was certainly questionable, and the replay clearly showed all of Mexico’s players right in line with the Cameroon defense:
Yet the game went on, and Mexico continued pressing for the advantage. Once again it appeared they had gone ahead when dos Santos latched on to a cross and tapped it in just before the half-hour mark.
Of course he was ruled offside. And he WAS behind the last defender — except that it was a Cameroon player, not a Mexican player, that knocked it forward while dos Santos was in the offside position. Around the world, that tends to negate the offside call… but not for Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan, who botched the call a second time in a 20-minute span.
The match continued to be a back-and-forth affair, as Cameroon actually outshot Mexico 10-9 for the match. (Mexico would put five on target to Cameroon’s four.) But Peralta and dos Santos continued to find seams in the Africans’ defense, and it eventually cost Cameroon in the 61st minute.
Dos Santos unleashed a hard shot that Itandje parried away… and right to the feet of an onrushing Peralta, who clinically tapped the ball into the net. Not even Roldan could find fault with the goal, and Mexico finally had the lead after several botched calls.
Cameroon would press forward, and both teams had chances in the final minutes. The Indomitable Lions forced Guillermo Ochoa to make a leaping save off a header to the top corner just before stoppage time, but after the keeper scooped up the shot the game was all but over. A giveaway nearly gave Mexico a second goal to boost the differential, but Miguel Layun’s pass was too high and substitute Javier Hernandez put the cross over the bar. Soon after, the final whistle pealed out through the rain in Natal, and Mexico had held on for a win it had proven it deserved several times over.