NATAL, Brazil — With torrential rain pouring down 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 game 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 any chance of advancing from a tough Group A at the World Cup.
Peralta’s goal gave Mexico its first win over an African team at the World Cup and justified coach Miguel Herrera’s faith that he could deliver on the biggest stage in the world.
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 and favorite Brazil leads the group after a 3-1 win over Croatia in the opening game. 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.
The rain never dampened the spirits of the Mexico fans who arrived hours early, dominated the announced crowd of 39,216 and kept up their cheers and taunts throughout the match.
CHILE 3, AUSTRALIA 1: In Cuiaba, Brazil, Alexis Sanchez produced a dynamic performance to lead Chile in the World Cup on Friday, scoring one goal and setting up another for one of the dangerous outsiders in the tournament.
Chile threatened to run away with the game in muggy Cuiaba when Sanchez poked home 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 star forward Tim Cahill in the 35th and giving the Chileans a string of scares in the second half.
However, Jean Beausejour put the game away for Chile in injury time.
Chile is level on three points in Group B with the Netherlands.
NETHERLANDS 5, SPAIN 1: In Salvador, Brazil, the Netherlands tore Spain apart in a dominant second half performance to thrash the defending World Cup champion 5-1 on Friday and gain a measure of revenge for its 2010 World Cup final loss to Vicente Del Bosque’s team.
Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben both scored twice and defender Stefan de Vrij grabbed his first international goal in a humiliating defeat for a Spain team that has won its last three major tournaments.
Spain tumbled to its second consecutive loss in the opening match of a World Cup and its heaviest defeat in the game’s showcase tournament since capitulating 6-1 to Brazil in 1950.