FORTALEZA, Brazil, (Reuters) – Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa produced a series of superb reflex saves to restrict Brazil to a 0-0 draw at the World Cup today and deny the Brazilians their 11th victory in a row.
In an absorbing Group A match in the deafening cauldron of Fortaleza’s Castelao arena, Ochoa thwarted Paulinho, Neymar (twice) and Thiago Silva when they seemed certain to score.
He was the last Mexican player to leave the pitch to a standing ovation by thousands of green-shirted supporters before being named man of the match.
“We should congratulate their goalkeeper who performed at least four miracles,” Brazilian striker Fred said after a frustrating afternoon for the hosts who failed time and again to unlock a stubborn Mexican defence.
Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari described Ochoa’s performance as “spectacular”.
At the other end, the Mexicans had a few decent chances of their own in yet another entertaining game at this World Cup, and they could have snatched a victory had their long-range shots been more accurate.
Jose Vasquez, Hector Herrera and Miguel Layun all tried their luck with powerful drives from outside the box that zipped over Julio Cesar’s crossbar.
The draw ended Brazil’s 10-match winning streak, dating back to August when they lost to Switzerland in a friendly.
It also meant that to make the second round of the tournament both teams need points from their final group games on June 23 when Brazil face Cameroon in Brasilia and Mexico meet Croatia in Recife.
“There was a chance here, a chance there, it was very tight,” Scolari said.
“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.”
Brazil took control of the match from the outset with Marcelo and Oscar causing mischief down the left and Neymar showing bursts of brilliance when he drifted into the middle.
It was a Neymar header that forced the first of Ochoa’s “miracles”, the keeper scrambling across his line to beat the ball away at his right hand post.
Oscar floated a free kick into the box and Thiago Silva chested it down into the path of Paulinho with just the keeper to beat but again Ochoa got his body in the way and parried the ball to safety.
Brazil turned the screws after the interval against a Mexican side who have never beaten them at the World Cup and have failed to score a single goal against them in four meetings dating back to 1950.
With a passionate Brazilian crowd roaring them on, Neymar came close again, twisting inside his marker and firing in a left-foot shot which Ochoa blocked with his chest.
In the dying minutes Brazilian captain Thiago Silva looked certain to score with a point-blank header but again Ochoa was in the right place to beat the ball away.
Despite their setback, Brazil will be confident of booking their place in the last 16 by taking points from Cameroon.
The Mexicans, meanwhile, will feel their chaotic qualifying campaign is behind them and that they can get a point from Croatia to put them into the knock-out stages for the sixth consecutive World Cup.