Guillermo Ochoa and Javier Aquino after Mexico held Brazil, on Tuesday
Fortaleza: Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the toast of Mexico after leaving Brazil’s much-vaunted attack frustrated with an outstanding display in the barren draw, here, on Tuesday.
Nicknamed Memo, Ochoa stood tall to deny Paulinho, Neymar and Thiago Silva, blocking eight attempts on goal much to the delight of thousands of ecstatic Mexicans at Estadio Castelao.
“I believe this was the best match of my life because this was a World Cup game and a very important one,” Ochoa said. “We have to move on. Of course, it calls for celebrations with teammates and my family. But we need to move on because the path is still long.
“Thank God I made those saves and now it’s time to keep on working.”
It should come as no shock then that, after the match, Mexico’s No. 13 was smiling from ear to ear as he described his miracle saves. “I was watching the move unfold and, when I saw Dani Alves was going to send in a cross, I looked across the box and saw Neymar was being tightly marked by Rafa Marquez.
“I didn’t think he’d manage to get an effort on goal, but even so I got into position to make sure I was ready,” said Ochoa.
“Suddenly I saw he’d won the header and after that everything was instinctive.
“I pushed off with my feet, stretched as far as I could and managed to keep the ball out.”
From the very moment it happened, comparisons with Gordon Banks’ ‘Save of the Century’ began flooding in and, when the two sequences are compared, the similarities are indeed remarkable.
“Of course I know that save, I’ve seen it loads of times!” said a humble but visibly delighted Ochoa.
“I know it’s considered the best save in (World Cup) history and it’s a real honour that people are saying mine was similar. I genuinely feel very flattered.”
For those that have followed Ochoa throughout his career, spectacular saves and performances come as no surprise.
Though he has put in no shortage of fine displays with latest employers AC Ajaccio, now his contract with the Ligue 1 outfit is over, and Mexico’s standout performer in their opening two games is currently without a club.
“Of course it’s not the same (as a normal league game). This is the World Cup, up against the host nation… the setting could not have been better,” continued the former CF America ’keeper. “I was really determined to have a good game and I think that I managed to do my bit when I was needed.”
As expected, plenty more praise would come the shot-stopper’s way after the final whistle, with team-mate Hector Moreno leading the way.
“He was incredible,” said the RCD Espanyol defender.
“He might not have been that well-known before because he’s been playing for a small club, but this comes as no surprise to those of us who work with him everyday.”
“He saved us today,” said Andres Guardado. “Sometimes we had the feeling that, however many times they went for goal, he wasn’t going to let anything get past him.”