World Cup: Ochoa shines for Mexico in draw with Brazil
POSTED: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 7:19pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 7:20pm
(CNN) — Brazil's World Cup has been a carnival of color -- but this was a monochrome affair in Fortaleza.
A dour goalless draw against Mexico is unlikely to prevent the host nation from qualifying for the next stage but this game will soon be forgotten.
Even with Neymar at the helm, the face of Brazil's World Cup challenge, it rarely looked like finding a way past a determined and stubborn Mexican side.
And when Brazil did managed to create a chance, it found Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in irrepressible form.
"There was a chance here, a chance there, it was very tight," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari told reporters.
"It wasn't a question of us evolving or not (from the last game). We've been playing this way for 20 games, we are up against good teams, we need to understand that.
"It wasn't a good result, a victory would have qualified us. We need to respect other teams."
After the thrilling excitement of the last week's 3-1 win over Croatia, those packed into the stadium in Fortaleza may have expected another action-packed affair.
Instead, what transpired was a rather turgid affair as Brazil failed to find the fluency which eventually put Croatia to the sword in Sao Paulo.
Mexico, winners in its opening game against Cameroon, showed little sign of being overawed by the occasion and came close to opening the scoring when Hector Herrera's effort was tipped away by Julio Cesar.
It wasn't until midway through the first half that Brazil fashioned a real opportunity -- but when it came it needed a wonderful save by Ochoa to keep Mexico level.
Dani Alves, sporting his freshly sprayed silver hairstyle, escaped down the right and his cross was headed towards goal by Neymar only for Ochoa to scramble across goal and tip the ball away.
With the first half drawing to a close, Brazil once again carved open the Mexican defense.
A free kick into the penalty area was chested down by Thiago Silva into the path of David Luiz but his effort was blocked by the onrushing Ochoa.
Whatever coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said at the interval appeared to galvanize the host nation for a few minutes at least with substitute Bernard, on in place of Ramires, adding a new found impetus.
It was Bernard who created the opening chance of the half, crossing for Neymar at the far post only for the ball to be taken off the forward's toes by a Mexican defender.
But any hopes that Brazil would begin to grow into the contest appeared unfounded.
Instead, it was Mexico which looked the more threatening of the two teams with Oribe Peralta and Giovani Dos Santos both roaming menacingly towards the Brazilian goal.
But while Neymar remained on the field, Brazil still possessed a man capable of producing magic.
It was the 22-year-old who was denied by Ochoa once again, this time the Mexican blocking Neymar's fierce drive from inside the penalty area.
Brazil, having replaced the anonymous Fred with substitute Jo, began to crank up the pressure with Mexico visibly beginning to tire.
Unbeaten in its previous 38 matches on home soil, Brazil rarely looked like losing but nor did it appear able to find that elusive goal.
That frustration was increased with five minutes remaining when Thiago Silva's powerful header was blocked on the line by Ochoa with the Brazilian captain looking certain to score.
Marcelo, the left-back, then embarrassed himself by attempting to gain a late penalty with a dive which won him few admirers.
Raul Jimenez went close at the other end, forcing Cesar into a smart save as both side's failed to find a breakthrough.
Brazil's next game takes place on June 23rd against Cameroon while Mexico will take on Croatia.