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The Estadio Castelao crowd was treated to one of the most entertaining goalless draws in FIFA World Cuphistory as Mexican goalkeeper Memo Ochoa put in a performance for the ages.
The hosts’ first game in Fortaleza began at a high tempo, the frenzied action on the pitch matching the atmosphere and passion up in the stands. The game swayed from one end to the other in the early going as the Mexicans and Brazilians traded half-chances.
Mexico, hoping for a repeat of the Olympic final in Wembley Stadium two years ago, raised their game, bolstered by an opening-day win over Cameroon.
The Brazilians were missing bulky striker Hulk, who pulled out of training yesterday with a muscle strain. The best chance of an enthralling opening period came from the sizzling Neymar. The fan favourite and two-goal hero against Croatia rose well at the back post to meet an inch-perfect cross from Barcelona team-mate Dani Alves.
The young maestro leaped over Mexican icon and captain Rafa Marquez and sent his powerful header screaming toward goal, only to be denied by Ochoa. The Mexican keeper sprawled acrobatically to deny the effort after 26 minutes.
El Tri created few clear chances on goal in the opening period, but flying right-back Miguel Layun got forward up the left, pressing Dani Alves back toward his own goal whenever possible. Giovani dos Santos was a threat in the withdrawn forward’s role and Andres Guardado added a bit of pace and guile.
Jose Juan Vazquez had a chance for Mexico from distance near the end, but the his right-footed effort curled just wide of Julio Cesar’s goal. Paulinho had one more chance for Brazil as well, but he was denied from close-range again by Ochoa as the high-octane half ended scoreless.
The second-half saw the pace pick up even more. Three minutes in, substitute Bernard crossed for Neymar on the counter-attack, only for a timely intervention to stab the ball away for a corner-kick. The Mexicans responded with a pair of long-distance efforts that flew over Julio Cesar’s goal.
Midway through the half, Neymar was again denied by the spring-loaded Mexican keeper. The Brazilian ace brought down a cross from the left and hammered a half-volley at goal, only for Ochoa – currently without a club – to fly to his left and push away the effort.
It was turning into a historic performance for the Mexican, who was left out in the cold for large swaths of the qualifying campaign, and his reflex save from Thiago Silva in the dying moments was the pick of the bunch. The bushy-haired custodian was rightly swamped by his team-mates at the final whistle.
Brazil, now on four points after two games, take on Cameroon in their third and final group game on 23 June in Brasilia while Mexico, tangled with the hosts on four points, face Croatia on the northern coast in Recife.
Report courtesy: FIFA.com; Image: Wikimedia Commons