Wednesday, June 18, 2014

FIFA 2014: Ochoa's "Miracle of Fortaleza"

Remember Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union, Gordon Banks of England and Oliver Kahn of Germany? Another goalkeeper could also join their ranks, if he is to continue his performance at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza today. He is Guillermo Ochoa of Mexico.

On paper, Brazil were the clear favorites to win the Group A preliminary game of FIFA World Cup 2014 against Mexico. They had never lost to the North American team in a FIFA World Cup game and this year, with Neymar and Co in terrific form, it could have not been different. Well, on paper, no one could predict what Ochoa did.

In general the Brazilian attack was well organized and it threw almost everything it could at the Mexicans. The Mexican defense was equal to the task. The game could have easily ended 2-0 and even 4-0. But it ended 0-0.

In the 27th minute, Ochoa sprang to his right, covering a great distance in saving a sure goal coming from a Neymar header. Images of Banks denying Pele 44 years ago must have flashed through those who have seen it. Just before half time, Ochoa saved another chance. Although Brazil dominated almost the entire first half, the score was 0-0 at half time.

This 27th minute save was the most dramatic of them all (Pic-
Mexico started the second half with a definite ploy. Perhaps lacking the killer punch in their striking force, they started taking long shots at the goal. Almost all went over the crossbar, giving little trouble to Julio Cesar. He was called on to make one real save towards the end of the game, and he made no mistake there.

After about 20 minutes of the second half, Brazil once again took the game to their hands, but their control ended where Guillermo Ochoa was standing. His defense wall backed him up nicely, denying many a chance to the Brazilians. In the 86th minute, Ochoa made another dramatic save off a Thiago Silva header from a Neymar free kick. It was drama in the first degree.

There was no mistake at the disappointment of the Brazilians. They had never failed to score in a preliminary round game in a FIFA World Cup after 1978. In the last three world cup tournaments, they had finished with maximum points in the first round. This game would have been the same if not for Guillermo Ochoa.

However, Ochoa heroics or good defense would not be enough to take Mexico through to the final rounds of the tournament. If their strikers are weak, it will ultimately stop their campaign somewhere along the way.
This writer found out that the wikipedia page on Guillermo Ochoa had been edited

For now though, Mexico can celebrate the miracle at Fortaleza. Guillermo Ochoa, who made it possible, has become a hero. Someone edited his Wikipedia page just after the Brazil game to say that “He is the Mexican Jesus after his performance against Brazil.” Of course, this edit was removed in a few minutes. But Ochoa’s performance will not be forgotten by the Mexicans, as well as the Brazilians, for a long time to come.

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