By Kevin Buckles Jr, Sports Editor
FORTALEZA–Thanks to the heroics of Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, Brazil was held to a scoreless draw for the eighth time in 20 World Cups, on Tuesday afternoon at Estádio Castelão in a thrilling, scoreless draw.
Coming into the match it looked as if Mexico would have its hands full with Brazil who were being considered the favorites to win the World Cup as the host nation; and it appeared as so, early in the game.
In the 26 minute, defender Dani Alves received the ball near the top right corner of the penalty box, with plenty of space around him to set up a scoring opportunity.
Alves delivered a cross into the middle of the box where star forward Neymar Jr. out leaped a Mexican defender and headed the ball toward the far left side of the goal.
At first glimpse, the header looked as if it was going to be a definite goal. However, Guillermo Ochoa displayed excellent instincts and reaction time, fully extending himself and knocking the ball out of the net before it could cross goal line entirely.
Ochoa’s save would set the tone for the rest of the match as he continued to frustrate Brazil strikers.
Right before halftime in the 45 minute, Brazil was once again in a prime position to score, this time, off of a free kick delivered by Neymar.
Neymar sent the ball from the middle of the field, about ten yards from the penalty box, into the box, where defender Thiago Silva was able to head it in the direction of defender David Luiz, giving Luiz clear shot at goal.
But, once again, Ochoa came up huge for his country.
The 28 year-old goalie made a gutsy play on the ball, racing up towards it simultaneously with Luiz, and blocking it away for another enormous save.
Ochoa went on to make two more clutch saves for Mexico in the second half to seal Brazil’s scoreless fate; in the 69 minute off of a left-footed strike from the right side of the goal by Neymar, and an 85 minute block from a Silva header who free-ran in Ochoa’s vicinity for a shot off Neymar’s corner kick.
Ochoa’s six saves were the most by a Mexican goalkeeper at the World Cup since 1994, according to ESPN.
“Without question [it was the game of my life],” Ochoa said after the game. “To do it in the World Cup, against the home team, and get a clean sheet… it’s not easy. Thank God things turned out the way they did.”
Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera gave all credence to his players after the match for the performance they put on to earn a draw.
“We [the coaching staff] had a plan, but the credit must go to the players, who played a great game,” Herrera said. “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.”
Despite earning a point and not losing the match, Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was unsatisfied with the results of his team’s performance in their battle with Mexico.
“A 0-0 is never a good result but it reflects how evenly contested this game was,” Scolari said in his post-match comments. “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.”
Both teams will be back in action, closing out group-stage play on Monday; Brazil will be facing Cameroon at Estádio Nacional while Mexico will be taking on Croatia at Arena Pernambuco.
To see the highlights of this match click on this link http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=intl:1889171, video provided by ESPN FC.