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World Cup 2014
 

Brazil 0 Mexico 0: Highlights, key battles and what the result means

Published on Jun 18, 2014 5:38 AM
 
Brazil's forward Neymar (left) and Mexico's defender Francisco Rodriguez vie for the ball during a Group A football match between Brazil and Mexico in the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 17, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

It takes a superhuman effort to stop Neymar and company from scoring on Brazilian soil. And that is exactly what Mexico got from goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who pulled off a string of spectacular saves to earn his side a goal-less draw with an exasperated Brazil outfit.

In front of a stunned home crowd, the Selecao failed to score for the first time in 27 World Cup group matches, an incredible run that stretched back to 1978.

Mexico's gameplan was spot-on from the start, pressing high to frustrate Neymar before launching swift counter-attacks to nullify the hosts' attacking full-backs. They also came close with several long-range piledrivers, though grabbing all three points would have been harsh on the Brazilians, who looked overly dependent on their gifted No. 10 to deliver up front.

Highlights

- Ochoa's performance of a lifetime started in style. With a stop that is unlikely to be topped for the rest of the tournament, the 28-year-old somehow clawed away Neymar's glancing header that was destined for the back of the net. He was even embraced by team-mates who seemed stunned at what they just saw.

- Next, abandoned by his backline and with four Brazilians in front of him, the AC Ajaccio custodian threw his body in the way to block Paulinho's toe-poke from point-blank range.

- Not to be outdone, Brazil No. 1 Julio Cesar showcased some stellar glove-work too by acrobatically tipping over Hector Herrera's 30-yarder - one of several attempts from a distance by the Mexicans.

- To cap off a glorious night, Ochoa was perfectly positioned to deny Thiago Silva what would have been a "captain's goal" with a header late in the second half.

Key battles

Neymar v Rafael Marquez

At 35, Marquez showed that he still had the legs and wit to spearhead Mexico's outstanding defensive block. The former Barcelona sweeper may not have dealt directly with Neymar much, but he was constantly belting out instructions to his side as they worked together to stop one of the world's deadliest footballers.

Neymar cut a frustrated figure, looking to the heavens as he found himself closed down by at least two opponents as soon as he got a whiff of the ball. At one point, he dropped all the way back to his own penalty box to receive a pass, highlighting his lack of action in the final third thanks to an eagle-eyed Marquez.

Man of the match

Probably the easiest decision at this World Cup so far. Ochoa did not put a foot or glove wrong for 90-plus minutes. It is not often said that a goalkeeper single-handedly earned a result for his team at the World Cup - this was one of those moments.

His save from Neymar's header - videos of which are going viral - will be mentioned alongside those made by legendary goalkeepers Peter Schmeichel, Gordon Banks and Dino Zoff.

What the result means

A superior goal difference means Brazil are still in the driving seat in the race to top Group A. Even as a win against Cameroon on Monday will ensure first place, bigger concerns remain.

Neymar's supporting cast have yet to show up, which will cost them in the latter stages. No matter how gifted the 22-year-old is, he - and his country - need the likes of Fred and Paulinho to share the burden in attack. Right now, opponents know that cutting off the supply to Neymar is half the battle won.

Mexico cannot afford to rest as they battle Croatia for what will likely be the runners-up spot. Javier Hernandez continues to look out of sorts as a substitute. Much will depend on in-form striker Oribe Peralta as they bid to continue their fairytale run and progress past the quarter-finals for the first time.

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