By RYAN TOLMICH
Host nation Brazil may have had the fans, the attacking talent and the pundits on their side, but most importantly, Mexico had goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa on theirs.
The two Group A nations played to a scoreless draw Tuesday afternoon, as Neymar and co. were frustrated time and time again by the goal-line heroics of the Mexican goalkeeper.
The 28-year-old Ochoa at times singlehandedly kept the host off the board, erasing defensive mistakes, spectacular runs and threatening set pieces on his way to earning his side a precious point.
Ochoa’s first contribution to the game came in the 25th minute on a Neymar header from just outside the 6-yard-box. Ochoa’s palm save off the line stopped a Brazilian attack against the run of play. Until Neymar’s opportunity, the game was under Mexican control.
The goalkeeper stepped up yet again in the 44th minute, when he was betrayed by his own defense with three Brazilian attackers bearing down. However, Ochoa’s most important effort came with the game on the line in the 86th minute: Thiago Silva got onto the end of a Neymar free kick for an open header inside the 6-yard-box, but Ocho notched his final save, his sixth of the game.
On the attacking end, Mexico competed admirably with Brazil, with El Tri firing 12 shots to Brazil’s 15. However, the hosts proved to be the more efficient side, as Mexico forced Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar into only one save.
With the draw, both teams find themselves on four points through two games. Mexico will finish up group play against Croatia on Monday, while Brazil takes on Cameroon at the same time.