When Giovani dos Santos had two valid first-half goals ruled out in Mexico's World Cup opener against Cameroon, El Tri would've been forgiven for thinking it wasn't their day. But eventually Oribe Peralta emerged through the driving rain in Natal to poke home the game's only goal, securing a deserved victory for Miguel Herrera's side.
Mexico were in the ascendancy right from the first whistle, and in the 11th minute they found a final ball to complement their promising build-up play. Héctor Herrera's inch-perfect low cross was volleyed in by Giovani dos Santos, only for the assistant referee to raise the offside flag incorrectly.
Cameroon began to look a little more confident after their early scare, and went closest after 20 minutes when Benoît Assou-Ekotto's excellent delivery from the left was flashed just wide by Samuel Eto'o in the box. But unfortunately for Cameroon, the respite was only momentary. The Indomitable Lions still looked all too domitable.
They should have paid the price from a corner on the half hour, when dos Santos got down to nod in a flick-on from point-blank range. But once again the Colombian linesman flagged for offside, and this time his mistake was obvious. The ball had taken a nick off Cameroon winger Maxim Choupo-Moting before landing on dos Santos' head, and at the break, Mexico should have been two goals up. Instead, the game was deadlocked and goalless.
However, Mexico fortunately didn't lose any of their momentum over the halftime break, and almost finally broke the deadlock within three minutes of the restart. Guardado touched his strike partner Oribe Peralta through on goal, only for the veteran forward to be denied when one-on-one with Cameroon keeper Charles Itandje. At the other end, Cameroon continued to threaten little; going closest through a deflected Assou-Ekotto free-kick just short of the hour.
Within a couple of minutes Cameroon were finally made to pay for their impotence, with Mexico at last scoring a goal the referee couldn't rule out. A quick counter-attack culminated in Itandje diving to save dos Santos' close-range effort, though he was powerless to prevent Peralta's rebound hitting the back of the net.
For the first time in the match Cameroon were forced onto the front foot, though striker Eto'o stayed disappointingly isolated up top. Eventually coach Volker Finke threw on striker Pierre Webó for defensive midfielder Alex Song, though Mexico's sturdy back three proved up to the task.
Mexico could have doubled their lead when Javier Hernández volleyed over when free in the box in stoppage time, though fortunately for Chicharito, it didn't matter. Mexico kick off their Brazil 2014 with a vital victory, and even if they lose to Brazil in their next match, progression beyond the group stages will still be in their hands heading into the final game against Croatia.
Mexico: Ochoa; Moreno, Márquez, Rodríguez; Layún, Guardado (Fabián 69'), Herrera (Salcido 90+2'), Vázquez, Aguilar; dos Santos, Peralta (Hernández 74').
Goals: Peralta (61').
Cameroon: Itandje; Assou-Ekotto, N'Koulou, Chedjou, Djeugoue (Nounkeu 46'); Song (Webó 79'), Mbia, Enoh; Moukandjo, Eto'o, Choupo-Moting.