If you are told that a football match ended in a goalless draw, you will naturally think about a drab affair devoid of action, in which the sides involved did not give their best performances. But last night’s Group A match between hosts Brazil and Mexico was one of the most thrilling goalless football games ever played. Brazil did everything they could but all their attempts were met with the brilliance of amazing goalkeeping by Mexico’s Ochoa. His anticipation, athleticism, acrobatics and quicksilver reflexes thwarted the numerous strikes that the Brazilians made on the Mexico goal.
The Group A match was played at the Castelao arena in Fortaleza on Tuesday and by forcing a draw, Mexico maintained their good record against the Brazilians. The memories of Brazil’s shocking loss against the Mexicans at London Olympics’ gold medal match in 2012 was still fresh in the minds of countless Brazilian fans. The result of yesterday’s match has balanced the Group A standings. Brazil will face Cameroon next while Mexico will take on Croatia.
Brazil began dominating the game as soon as the kick-off took place. Neymar was challenged three times in the first 20 minutes but the resulting free kicks from such fouls proved ineffective against the Mexican wall of solid defense. On their turn, the Mexicans came dangerously close to scoring against Brazil in the 23rd minute, when Peralta made a solo entry into the penalty area after dribbling past Brazilian defenders but his powerful shot sailed inches above the crossbar. Two minutes later, Brazil went into a counter attack at the end of which, a fine pass came to Neymar near the back post. Neymar jumped high and his header was angled across to the near post but the acrobatic Ochoa flew full stretch and cleared the header with his right palm. Ten minutes later, Ochoa made another great save when Fred produced a fine header from a floating corner by Neymar. The Mexican defense and Ochoa were kept busy by Brazilian forwards all through the first half.
For the first ten minutes after the break, Mexican forwards raided the Brazil penalty area and made a few attempts on the goal but couldn’t find the target. In the 69th minute, Neymar got a lovely cross from Fred but again his shot was marvelously saved by Ochoa. In the 76th minute Fred’s substitute Jo came charging in the Mexican box after passing all defenders. He only had the goalkeeper to beat but Jo squandered the opportunity by shooting wide. As the match time drew close, there were last-ditch attempts from both sides. First Brazil’s Silva had a close chance, when Neymar’s free-kick found him on the right spot. But Ochoa, brilliant as ever, cleared the attempt away. In the 89th minute, Mexico earned a corner and Guardado fired a stinging volley that went off only inches wide. First minute into the injury time, the Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar was severely tested when he made a great save as Jimenez fired a shot. And then the thrilling goalless encounter came to an end.
In the final analysis, the match became famous more for Mexico’s fantastic goalkeeping. Ochoa’s electrifying display at the goal post turned a goalless game into an action-packed thriller. The media stories headlined the Mexican goalkeeper’s superlative efforts in denying Brazil any goal. By his incredible performance yesterday, Ochoa became an instant hero. All through the match there were tweets on Ochoa’s this save or that. Over 2 million people had tweeted while the game was still in progress. The final number could be even higher. The way Ochoa transformed himself into an impenetrable shield; he ended up earning a reference by many as the great wall of Mexico.