Outstanding Ochoa aids Aztecs’ tag as Brazil bogey team
For the seventh time since the 2001 Copa America, Brazil failed to beat Mexico and were thwarted in Fortaleza thanks to a Man of the Match display from El Tri goalie Guillermo Ochoa. As a result, Coral have lengthened the odds of Phil Scolari’s side winning the World Cup to 7/2.
What price on that after a calamitous club campaign at Ajaccio, relegated from Ligue 1 with barely a whimper. Ochoa let in almost two goals per game at the Corsican outfit, but was in inspired form on international duty, using every part of his body to keep Scolari’s Samba Boys at bay.
If ever a player put himself in the shop window, then it was here. Ochoa is leaving Ajaccio behind, and top teams in need of a keeper, like Arsenal for example, have surely sat up and taken notice.
Reaction stops are clearly his forte. Thiago Silva was twice foiled from set pieces, and an unbelievable one from Neymar when Ochoa was clearly unsighted drew Twitter comparisons to that Gordon Banks save against Pele.
Julio Cesar was no slouch at the other end either. He may key contributions in each half to ensure a sluggish Brazil were not beaten. Scolari knows his side must do better than what will be billed by the majority of media outlets as a drab draw.
Fred laboured up front again before being substituted, while Ramires added nothing wide right apart from a booking in the absence of Hulk. Mexico manager Miguel Herrera had a game plan; knock the Samba Boys off their stride, and it worked.
The Aztecs certainly satisfied the old footballing cliche of a hard-earned point, with captain Rafael Marquez rolling back the years for a vintage performance reminiscent of his Barcelona days. Current Nou Camp sensation Neymar, meanwhile, was missing the magic expected of him and tried to do too much.
Scolari has stayed loyal to a core of players that performed so well for him last summer when Brazil won the Confederations Cup. The likes of full backs Dani Alves and Marcelo, along with midfield pair Luiz Gustavo and Paulinho are failing to repay the faith shown in them by their national boss.
Miguel Layun, down the left for Mexico, gave the Samba Boys a dose of their own medicine as a marauding presence. More worryingly, midfield areas were so often ceded by Spurs man Paulinho and former Bayern Munich destroyer Gustavo. Had one of several long range Aztecs efforts flown in, blushes would not have been spared.
Big Phil’s Brazil have got to improve if they are to meet their brief of winning the World Cup, but they should definitely do so against Cameroon, whatever the outcome of a meeting between the so-called Indomitable Lions and Croatia. A decisive result there will eliminate the loser, leaving a three-horse race to make the knockout phase.
Coral’s straight forecast on Brazil topping Group A and Mexico joining them in the last 16 is now odds-on at 4/6. Niko Kovac’s Blazers are 9/5 to pip El Tri to second place.