Guillermo Ochoa threw up an impenetrable shield around his goal as stubborn Mexico frustrated World Cup hosts Brazil to earn a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.
The Mexican goalkeeper pulled off an incredible diving stop from a Neymar header and a series of other extraordinary saves, holding up Brazil’s march toward qualification from group A.
“We can’t avoid talking about their goalkeeper,” Brazil striker Fred said. “He came up with at least four miracles.”
The 28-year-old Ochoa, who has no club as his contract with French club AC Ajaccio has ended, did a lap of honour around the Fortaleza Castelao Stadium after one of the great World Cup goalkeeping performances.
Basketball hero Kobe Bryant, who was among the 60,342-strong crowd, hailed “OCHOA!! Incredible” in a Tweet within minutes of the game ending. Ochoa’s Wikipedia page was hacked to hail him as “the Mexican Jesus after his performance against Brazil”.
“Is that the greatest match of my career? Without a doubt,” a delighted Ochoa said.
“It’s the highlight. Playing in a World Cup, against Brazil, in Brazil, and not conceding a goal? It’s definitely the best highlight.
“The [Neymar] header was the most complicated. It was a hard header and close to the post – that was my favourite save,” Ochoa said.
Mexico captain Rafael Marquez said Ochoa was the “saviour” and coach Miguel Herrera called him the “hero”.
“He did what we expected him to do, he came up with extraordinary saves,” Herrera said. “I can’t remember another Mexican goalkeeper doing such a great job in the World Cup.”
WATCH: Guillermo Ochoa and Neymar re-enact Gordon Banks' save from Pele
The precious draw left Mexico level with Brazil on four points from two games
While Ochoa deservedly grabbed the headlines, Brazil finished the game relieved to have earned a point.
Mexico had several late chances to score a shock upset, with Brazil grateful to their own goalkeeper Julio Cesar for keeping the match goalless.
The draw maintained Mexico’s impressive recent record against Brazil following their shock victory in the final of the London Olympics football tournament in 2012.
The result leaves group A finely balanced. Brazil face Cameroon in their final match while Mexico play Croatia.
“In the end, the 0-0 mirrors what happened, it was a very hard-fought match,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. “The draw wasn’t a good result because a victory would have already allowed us to advance, but we need to be able to respect our opponent, which played very well.
“There was a chance here, a chance there, it was very tight. It wasn’t a question of us evolving or not [from the last game]. We’ve been playing this way 20 games, we are up against good teams, we need to understand that.
“The only thing missing was the goal,” Scolari said. “We need to give credit to their goalkeeper. He had a great day and that kept us from winning the match. He made some spectacular saves, was the best player of the match.”
Herrera was pleased with his side’s performance.
“We had a great match against a great rival playing in front of its fans, in its stadium, in its country,” he said. “We showed that we can play at the same level as any other team.”
Brazil had won all three previous World Cup matches between the teams without conceding a goal, but the Latin American rivals hadn’t met in the sport’s showcase tournament since 1962.
“We already expected a match this difficult,” Fred said. “We tried to score until the end, but it wasn’t possible. We’ll have to wait until the next match to try to secure a spot in the next round.”
Fans wearing Brazil’s green and yellow colours were the majority as expected, but Mexicans took over large seating sections of the stadium and at times were louder than the local fans.
Agence France-Presse, Associated Press