Fortaleza means “fortress” in Portuguese and Mexico’s defense certainly lived up to the name of Brazil’s northeast city on Tuesday thanks to the heroics of Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
A well-organized Mexico side held Brazil to a 0-0 draw in Group A as Ochoa stopped Brazil star Neymar and his teammates.
“It was the match of my life,” the 28-year-old Ochoa said. “To do it in a World Cup, in front of all the fans, it’s incredible.”
However, Ochoa wasn’t the only goalkeeper in form at Fortaleza. Just as the World Cup hosts were successfully stifled, Julio Cesar of Brazil kept his clean sheet with some impressive saves.
Ochoa twice denied Neymar, diving at full stretch to turn the Brazil striker’s header round the post in the 26th minute and then blocking his shot in the 69th.
“The (Neymar) header was the most complicated. It was a hard header and close to the post that was my favorite save,” Ochoa said.
Four minutes before the end, Ochoa pulled off another superb save to block a header from Brazil captain Thiago Silva after he met a free kick from Neymar.
After referee Cuneyt Cakir blew the final while, Mexico players lined up to hug Ochoa, who plays at French club Ajaccio.
“I can’t remember another Mexican goalkeeper doing such a great job in the World Cup,” coach Miguel Herrera said. “I’m happy for any player to have that role, but tonight, Memo was the hero.”
With Mexico on four points from two games, the same as Group A leader Brazil, Ochoa’s saves have kept his team on course for the second round.
“Things went our way and now we’ve got to keep going,” he said.
Mexico relied largely on counterattacks and shots from distance to fend off Brazil, for whom Julio Cesar was also decisive.
Russia 1, South Korea 1: Alexander Kerzhakov scored with one of his first touches after coming on as a substitute to earn Russia a 1-1 draw with South Korea in a World Cup match marked by the first big goalkeeping error of the tournament.
Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev spilled Lee Keun-ho’s speculative long-range shot into his own net to gift South Korea a 68th-minute lead at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba in Group H.
But Kerzhakov bailed his teammate out, turning in a shot from close range in the 74th three minutes after coming on as a substitute to rescue a point for Russia in a poor-quality match.
Belgium 2, Algeria 1: Belgium opened its World Cup Group H campaign with a 2-1 comeback win over Algeria, relying on second-half goals from two substitutes.
Marouane Fellaini’s strong glancing header in the 70th minute with his back to goal came from a Kevin De Bruyne cross. Fellaini had only come onto the pitch five minutes earlier and was coach Marc Wilmots’ final substitution.