Soccer / Sports

Goalkeeper Ochoa saves Mexico in draw against Brazil

FORTALEZA, Brazil -- After a final and decisive save on an evening when Guillermo Ochoa repeatedly defied both the world's best team and the imagination, the Mexican goalkeeper shook his head with satisfaction.

At the end of a match and a night that shook this World Cup and Brazil, millions worldwide surely had a similar reaction, shaking their heads in amazement and bewilderment at a goalkeeping performance that ranks among the best in World Cup history.

Ochoa, known simply as Memo to his – now growing – legion of fans, secured, at times literally single-handedly, a 0-0 draw with Brazil, the heavy pre-tournament favorite, in a match at Estadio Castelao that was thrilling to its dramatic end.

The currently unemployed Ochoa seemed to top himself with each contorted, goal-denying save, the best and most important coming in the 86th minute when he somehow got his right glove on a point blank header and a sure goal from Brazil captain Thiago Silva.

"I don't know if I can think of another goalkeeper who has done what Memo has done today in a World Cup," Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said.

"The hero of the game," Mexico captain Rafael Marquez said.

Mexico needed a pair of late goals from the U.S. in World Cup qualifying to land a spot in a playoff with New Zealand last year. Now Ochoa's heroics have El Tri in prime position to not only advance to the tournament's second round but perhaps even win Group A, which only hours earlier appeared to be a lock for Brazil.

With four points, Mexico is behind Brazil only on goal differential – 3-1 to 1-0 – atop Group A and a Cameroon-Croatia draw on Wednesday at Arena Amazonia in Manaus would mean El Tri would only need the one point for a draw against Croatia next week to get through to the second round.

"We are in the position we needed and now we need to make a great game against Croatia, and I think that will make us go on to the next round," Mexico defender Miguel Layun said.

Brazil meanwhile, or at least its media, went into a Code Red panic mode almost as soon as the final whistle blew on a match that finished beneath a black sky on the country's northern coast. The draw followed a less-than-convincing victory against Croatia on Thursday, a win that came with a gift penalty kick, setting up a confrontational postgame news conference for Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Scolari, known to friend and foe as simply "Big Phil," is frequently funny, often profane and never budging. Tuesday he gave as good as he got.

On whether he was frustrated with his side:

"In my opinion, it's my opinion and not yours, not the opinion of people who criticize us – and everyone is entitled to their opinion – but I think the team played 10 percent better than when we played Croatia," Scolari said. "We are getting better and better. I was pretty happy with what I saw on the field."

On whether he needs to change the lineup:

"Are you asking me if I trust my players?" Scolari said. "I've already told you 10 times that you in the press create all kinds of different thoughts. I like my team and I work with the lineup that I want. You can create your own teams in your mind and the players you would like to see on the field. But the problem is, you will not have an impact on what I think. This is my team. Maybe I'll begin the match with a different lineup. But it's not a matter of me trusting my players or not."

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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