FORTALEZA, Brazil – He was called a hero and a savior by his Mexican teammates. His Brazilian opponents said he produced miracles.
There is no doubt that Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the one responsible for spoiling Brazil’s hopes of another World Cup victory at its home tournament.
Ochoa made a series of outstanding saves to help his side hold Brazil to a thrilling scoreless draw Tuesday.
The result left both teams with four points each after two games in Group A, but Brazil is ahead on goal difference going into their decisive final matches. Croatia and Cameroon meet today for their second games after both opened with defeats.
We can’t avoid talking about their goalkeeper, Brazil striker Fred said. He came up with at least four miracles.
Ochoa’s first remarkable save prevented Neymar from scoring in the 26th minute. The Brazil striker’s powerful header looked set to fly just inside the post when the goalkeeper dived to his right to push the ball wide.
Ochoa also made three other difficult saves to keep the hosts from breaking the deadlock – a shot by Paulinho in the 44th, a second-half effort by Neymar from inside the area and a close-range header by Thiago Silva in the 86th minute that produced a remarkable block by the Mexico goalkeeper.
It was the match of my life, said Ochoa, who was visibly moved after the match. To do it in a World Cup, in front of all the fans, it’s incredible.
Mexico captain Rafael Marquez said Ochoa was the savior, and coach Miguel Herrera called him the hero of the match.
He did what we expected him to do, he came up with extraordinary saves, Herrera said. I can’t remember another Mexican goalkeeper doing such a great job in the World Cup.
A win by either team would have guaranteed a spot in the next round if Cameroon and Croatia were to draw in the jungle city of Manaus.
In the end, the 0-0 mirrors what happened, it was a very hard-fought match, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. The draw wasn’t a good result because a victory would have already allowed us to advance, but we need to be able to respect our opponent, which played very well.
RUSSIA 1, SOUTH KOREA 1: In Cuiaba, Brazil, Alexander Kerzhakov scored with one of his first touches after coming on as a substitute to earn Russia a draw in a match marked by the first big goalkeeping error of the tournament.
Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev spilled Lee Keun-ho’s speculative long-range shot into his own net to gift South Korea a 68th-minute lead at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba in Group H.
But Kerzhakov bailed his teammate out, turning in a shot from close range in the 74th – three minutes after coming on as a substitute – to rescue a point for Russia in a poor-quality match.
BELGIUM 2, ALGERIA 1: In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Belgium opened its campaign with a comeback win, relying on second-half goals from two substitutes after a tense start in Group H.
Algeria opened the scoring with a penalty in the 25th minute and the surprising lead stood for 45 minutes until Marouane Fellaini’s strong glancing header, with his back to goal, from a Kevin De Bruyne cross.
Fellaini had come onto the pitch only five minutes earlier.
Dries Mertens’ right-foot strike beat Algeria’s goalkeeper in the 80th after Eden Hazard saw him free on the right and set him up for the decider.