Sunday, May 20, 2018
Sports

Mexico battles host Brazil to draw at World Cup

FORTALEZA, Brazil — Fortaleza means "fortress" in Portuguese and Mexico's defense certainly lived up to the name of Brazil's northeast city on Tuesday thanks to goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

A Mexican team that looked so well-organized — quite a turnaround in comparison to the disjointed bunch last year that nearly missed qualifying for this tournament out of CONCACAF — held host Brazil to a stunning 0-0 draw in Group A as Ochoa stopped Brazil and star striker Neymar.

"It was the match of my life," a visibly moved Ochoa said. "To do it in a World Cup, in front of all the fans, it's incredible."

He wasn't the only goalkeeper in form at Fortaleza. Julio Cesar of Brazil, who plays in MLS for Toronto, also kept a clean sheet with some impressive saves.

But Ochoa, 28, was the star, twice denying Neymar, diving at full stretch to turn his header around the post in the 26th minute 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 superbly save of a header from captain Thiago Silva after he met a free kick from Neymar.

After 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."

The result left both teams with four points each after two games in Group A, but Brazil is ahead on goal difference. Croatia and Cameroon meet today for their second games.

"We can't avoid talking about their goalkeeper," Brazil striker Fred said. "He came up with at least four miracles."

BELGIUM 2, ALGERIA 1: Belgium, picked by many analysts as a dark horse to make a deep run, opened its Group H campaign with a comeback win — the sixth in this tournament — in Belo Horizonte thanks to second-half goals from two substitutes.

Marouane Fellaini's glancing header in the 70th minute came five minutes after he entered. Ten minutes later Dries Mertens, who entered at the start of the second half, beat goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi from in close.

"We tired them. We just tired them down," Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said. "I told them, 'Don't worry, we will score.' "

Sofiane Feghouli's penalty gsive Algeria a surprise first-half lead.

Russia 1, South Korea 1: Blundering Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was bailed out by teammate Alexander Kerzhakov in Cuiaba.

Akinfeev spilled Lee Keun-ho's speculative effort into his own net in the 68th minute, gifting South Korea the lead.

Kerzhakov came to the rescue, turning in a shot from close range six minutes later — just three minutes after coming on as a substitute — to earn a point from a poor match.

"It was a kid's mistake," Afinkeev said. "The goalkeeper of the national team shouldn't make mistakes like this one."

 
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