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Soccer-Dos Santos delights with classy exuberance

Reuters

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 13 (Reuters) - Playing in his father's homeland, Mexico forward Giovani dos Santos delivered a match-winning performance in Friday's 1-0 win over Cameroon on Friday that contained as much of his Brazilian flair as Mexican exuberance and determination.

Dos Santos's exciting potential has been talked about for so long, and his club career has been so chequered, that it is easy to forget he is only 25-years-old. But in the pouring rain of Natal he offered a timely reminder of his quality.

His lack of consistency and his tendency to drift in and out of games had led to doubts over whether Miguel Herrera would even start him in the World Cup but he rewarded his coach with a display that answered all of the doubts.

Indeed, it could easily have been a truly headline grabbing performance had it not been for two highly questionable offside decisions in the first half that cut short dos Santos's goal celebrations.

For his first disallowed effort, dos Santos found the net with an intelligently cushioned volley and then his second 'goal' came from an instinctive quick reaction to pounce from close range.

But he responded perfectly to those setbacks after the interval by setting up Oribe Peralta's 61st minute winner with a surging run and low shot that was parried out by Cameroon keeper Charles Itandje into the path of Oribe Peralta, who tucked away the winner.

Herrera, whose face was contorted with rage after the disallowed goals, was just as expressive in his delight with that strike and when he finally calms down he will no doubt reflect on how the creation of that goal came from his astute decision to play dos Santos in a deeper role supporting Peralta.

With Raul Jimenez and Javier Hernandez both having strong claims to central striker roles, Herrera opted to give dos Santos the second striker position with licence to roam wide and drop deep.

Cameroon struggled to keep track of dos Santos' movements and his touch on the ball was delightful at times and would surely have had his Brazilian father Zizinho smiling.

Three minutes after the interval a perfectly executed stun pass from dos Santos put in Peralta for a strike on goal that was well blocked by Itandje and his comfort when running with the ball was on display throughout the game.

What will have pleased Herrara perhaps just as much as those moments of creative instinct was the sight of Dos Santos charging back to make a couple of important tackles late in the game as he fought to make sure Mexico held on to their slim advantage.

Dos Santos was spotted young by Barcelona - he was part of their La Masia academy at the age of 11 but after coming through their youth and B-team set-ups he was sold to England's Tottenham Hotspur in 2008.

The Mexican never established himself at White Hart Lane, offering just flashes of his ability, and he was loaned out three times before a move to Spain's Mallorca and then a switch to Villarreal.

The better moments in his career have come in the jersey of 'El Tri' - winning the World Under-17 Championship in 2005 and then the Olympic gold medal in 2012 - where he was forced to miss the final through injury.

But he was also one of those players that struggled throughout Mexico's poor qualification campaign from the CONCACAF region where even a place in Brazil looked at risk as they stuttered into the Intercontinental playoff against New Zealand.

Now he has the chance on Tuesday in Fortaleza to play against his father's country of birth and there is surely no better stage for him to confirm that he has finally matured into the player so many thought he was capable of becoming. (Reporting By Simon Evans, Editing by Nigel Hunt)

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