NATAL, Brazil – With torrential rain falling and two goals already contentiously disallowed, tens of thousands of soggy but boisterous Mexico fans were getting nervous.
They had already started chanting for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, the striker benched in favor of Oribe Peralta, to come on and deliver a winner.
Seconds after the chant began, Peralta scored in the 61st minute to help Mexico to a 1-0 victory Friday and the three points it needed to have a realistic chance of advancing from a tough Group A at the World Cup.
Peralta’s goal gave Mexico its first victory over an African team at the Cup and justified coach Miguel Herrera’s faith he could deliver on the biggest stage in the world.
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A non-factor most of the first half, Peralta broke the deadlock with his left foot after Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje parried Giovanni dos Santos’ attempt from the edge of the area.
The goal relieved the pressure that had been building steadily after dos Santos had two goals disallowed in the first half, frustrating the Mexican team that was controlling the game with its speed and ball possession.
“We could have scored more, but unfortunately we’re not used to these conditions,” Herrera said. “Frankly, the refereeing took away two clear goals, but at the end of the day you’ve got to work for it, and we get to the next match with three points and very high spirits.”
Tournament host Brazil leads the group after a 3-1 victory over Croatia in the opening game of the 32-team tournament.
Mexico plays Brazil on Tuesday in Fortaleza.
While the heat was expected to be an issue in this balmy coastal city, rain soaked the field at the new Arena das Dunas starting about four hours before the match and never let up, creating a cool day but a slick surface.
Mexico players said the field held up well and the conditions favored their style of play.
“We are ready to play in any type of circumstances,” dos Santos said. “We worked the ball well, and it was extraordinary to have the rain.”
Mexico fans arrived hours early, dominated the announced crowd of 39,216 and kept up their cheers and taunts throughout the match.
CUIABA, Brazil – Alexis Sanchez produced a dynamic performance to lead Chile to a 3-1 victory over Australia, scoring one goal and setting up another for a team viewed as one of the dangerous outsiders in the tournament.
Chile threatened to run away with the match when Sanchez scored from close range in the 12th minute before setting up Jorge Valdivia barely a minute later for the playmaker to finish from the edge of the area.
But Australia recovered well, responding with a trademark headed goal by forward Tim Cahill in the 35th minute and giving the Chileans a string of scares in the second half.
• Television viewership of the opening game in the United States on all networks was up 8 percent over 2010, mostly because of increased interest in ESPN’s English-language telecast.
The Nielsen company said 9.5 million people in the United States — including Univision’s Spanish-language audience of 5.1 million — watched Brazil’s tournament-opening victory over Croatia, compared with the 8.8 million who saw Mexico-South Africa on all U.S. networks in 2010’s first match.
ESPN’s opening-day audience was 4.4 million, up 55 percent from the 2.9 million who watched in 2010.
• Germany icon Franz Beckenbauer, one of the greatest players of all time, was banned from soccer for 90 days by FIFA for not cooperating with an investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
FIFA said the suspension was requested by ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia, making Beckenbauer, 68, the first person to be punished as a result of the case. Beckenbauer is an adviser to FIFA’s soccer committee and a global ambassador for Bayern Munich.