Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa turned in a sparkling individual performance as Mexico held hosts Brazil to a scoreless draw in a thrilling World Cup Group A encounter Tuesday evening at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza.
The result leaves the teams tied atop Group A with four points each heading into the third and final round of group matches, though Brazil currently sit in first place by virtue of their superior plus-two goal differential.
For both sides, the draw means only one point is necessary in their final group match to ensure progress to the knockout stages. Brazil will play Cameroon on Monday in Brasilia, while Mexico take on Croatia, simultaneously.
The result also means the loser of Wednesday's match between Cameroon and Croatia, if there is one, is out of the tournament.
Ochoa made six saves, per @NBCSportsSoccer, including a world-class stop in the first half to deny Neymar and another in the closing moments to keep out Thiago Silva.
The goalkeeper is currently a free agent, and his performance is likely to attract numerous club sides ahead of the beginning of the European season later this year—as noted by B/R's Jonathan Johnson:
The match got off to a lively start, with both teams eager to attack.
Brazil looked to have created a big chance in the 11th minute as Fred poked wide at the near post, but the striker had been ruled offside regardless. At the other end, Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar tipped Hector Herrera's rasping shot over the bar in the 24th minute. The referee failed to spot the touch, though, and awarded a goal-kick to the hosts.
Two minutes later, Brazil carved out the best chance yet. Dani Alves crossed from the right for Neymar at the back post, where the Barcelona star directed a well-placed header on target. The breakthrough goal seemed inevitable, but Ochoa pushed the ball away at full stretch to keep Mexico level.
Ochoa saved again, this time more comfortably, in the 35th minute from Fred's tame header following a corner by Neymar. Marcelo then shot off target from distance four minutes later, and Mexico's Jose Juan Vazquez sliced a dipping shot narrowly wide four minutes before half-time.
Before the break, though, Brazil had time for one more chance. But Ochoa came up with another fine save, stopping Paulinho from close range after Thiago Silva's chest-down inside the box.
As B/R contributor Stan Collymore noted, Mexico managed to hold Brazil without a goal in the first half thanks to good coordination among the players.
After the break, El Tri went on the offensive. Vazquez came close with another long-range effort in the 55th minute, blasting just over the bar, before Herrera shot off target following a fine team move two minutes later.
Brazil hit back in the 63rd minute through Neymar, who curled a free-kick just wide of the top corner. Ochoa then denied the Barcelona star yet again in the 69th minute, pushing away his low shot at the near post.
The Mexican goalkeeper was already man of the match by that point, but he still had another save in store. In the 86th minute, Neymar curled a free-kick into the middle of the box for Thiago Silva. The defender connected with a powerful header from close range, but Ochoa pulled off a superb reaction save.
Mexico came close to a late winner on two occasions in the closing moments as Andres Guardado shot narrowly over and Raul Jimenez volleyed straight at Julio Cesar. In the end, though, the teams had to settle for a scoreless draw in what was nevertheless one of the tournament's most exciting games so far.
|Brazil Player Ratings|
|Bernard (for Ramires, 46')||N/A||6|
|Jo (for Fred, 68')||N/A||6|
|Willian (for Oscar, 84')||N/A||6|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
|Mexico Player Ratings|
|Francisco Javier Rodriguez||7||8|
|Jose Juan Vazquez||7||8|
|Giovani dos Santos||5||5|
|Javier Hernandez (for Peralta, 74')||N/A||6|
|Marco Fabian (for Herrera, 76')||N/A||6|
|Raul Jimenez (for dos Santos, 84')||N/A||6|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa dedicated his man-of-the-match performance to his family, telling FIFA.com: "This is special. It’s for my family. They’re the ones who are there for me in the good times and the bad. Of course it was worth the wait (to play in a FIFA World Cup). I never doubted my ability."
Coach Miguel Herrera gave credit to his players but added that Mexico have not yet qualified for the knockout stages. Speaking to FIFA.com, he said:
We (the coaching staff) had a plan, but the credit must go to the players, who played a great game. We picked up a point but we’ve not achieved anything solid just yet. We’re in the group and battling it out for a place (in the next round), even with Brazil. We’ve still got another group game to play and, like always, we’ll be going all out for the win. I told the lads that they did an excellent job today, but we’ve still got to give everything to try and qualify.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari lamented the result but said his team "continues to evolve." Speaking to FIFA.com, he said:
A 0-0 is never a good result but it reflects how evenly contested this game was. This Selecao continues to evolve, keeping the same system for the last 20 games. The team’s doing well. People have to be aware that we’re coming up against good-quality teams. Being on top of the group doesn’t make this a good result, because we’d have qualified with a win, but we have to show respect for our opponents – who are a very good side.