FORTALEZA, Brazil: An unheralded Mexican goalkeeper took center stage at the World Cup here on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), almost single-handedly keeping mighty Brazil at bay to help his side earn a precious 0-0 draw.
After an opening week of the tournament, which has been dominated by goalscorers, Guil–lermo Ochoa seized his moment to shine in Mexico’s Group A clash with Brazil.
Ochoa pulled off an incredible diving stop from a Neymar header and a series of other extraordinary saves, holding up Brazil’s march toward qualification for the last 16.
The 28-year-old, who has no club as his contract with French club AC Ajaccio has ended, did a lap of honor around the Fortaleza Castelao Stadium after one of the great World Cup goalkeeping performances.
Basketball hero Kobe Bryant hailed “OCHOA!! Incredible” in a Tweet within minutes of the game ending.
Ochoa’s Wikipedia page was swiftly 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 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.
Earlier, Belgium staged a late fightback to beat Algeria 2-1 and deny the Africans a first World Cup win in 32 years on Tuesday.
Second-half goals from substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens secured an opening Group H victory for the Red Devils after Algeria had taken a 25th-minute lead with a Sofiane Feghouli penalty.
Manchester United midfielder Fellaini headed Belgium level on 70 minutes before Mertens struck 10 minutes later, latching onto a sublime pass from Eden Hazard and blasting home past Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’bolhi.
Algeria, who have not won a World Cup match since beating Chile at the 1982 finals in Spain, will now look to break their winless streak against South Korea or Russia, who play later on Tuesday.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, the last Belgian player to score a goal at the World Cup in the 2002 finals, is hoping to make a big impact in Brazil.
His Belgian side is seen as one of the most promising squads in international football, with a generation of talented players including Chelsea star Hazard, Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany and a slew of other foreign-based players.
The late game in Group H saw South Korea battle to a 1-1 draw with Russia.
Meanwhile, the fall-out from Monday’s action, which saw Germany rout Portugal 4-0 and African champions Nigeria labor to a 0-0 draw with Iran, continued.
Portugal denied midfielder Raul Meireles gave the referee the finger in his side’s stormy loss, insisting that he was merely gesturing a tactical switch.
Pictures on social media show Meireles, who sports a distinctive Mohawk hairstyle, raising the third finger on both hands to referee Milorad Mazic who had sent off Real Madrid defender Pepe.
But the Portuguese football federation defended the Fenerbahce player, claiming there was nothing vulgar about the gesture.