FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — He’d stopped two of the world’s most famous forwards, and on Sunday, Brazilians and Mexicans alike chanted his name.
Guillermo Ochoa was one of the main reasons why Mexico was on the brink of reaching the quarterfinals at the World Cup — before the Netherlands came from a goal down to win 2-1 with two late goals.
Voted man of the match, he was inconsolable.
“It isn’t easy to go out this way, the way this match went,” said a keeper who had denied Brazil star Neymar and Dutch forward Arjen Robben at the World Cup. “It’s just very hard to deal with when victory escapes you this way.”
However, the 28-year-old keeper, who plays for French second division team Ajaccio, now looks likely to attract the attention of Europe’s bigger clubs. He almost single handedly held Brazil to a 0-0 draw in the group stage and then kept the Dutch at bay until the final minutes in the second round on Sunday.
He twice prevented what looked like certain goals, getting between Stefan de Vrij and the ball in the 57th minute and then dropping down to stop Robben nine minutes later.
Eventually, Ochoa was beaten by Wesley Sneijder in the 88th minute, with almost no time to react to his powerful low volley that traveled through a crowded penalty area. And he was given no chance by Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s coolly-taken penalty in injury time that secured victory for the Netherlands.
But he’ll be remembered for what he saved.
Against Brazil, he twice stopped star striker Neymar, diving at full stretch to push his header past the post and later blocking his goal-bound shot.
Neymar almost got his revenge before the game ended, sending in a free kick to Brazil captain Thiago Silva, whose close-range header was somehow stopped by the curly-haired Mexican ‘keeper.
In the opener against Cameroon, the Mexicans won 1-0, but only held on to their victory after an impressive save from Ochoa stopped a late chance from Benjamin Moukandjo.
Mexico had already sealed its place in the last 16 and was leading 3-0 against Croatia before Ivan Perisic beat Ochoa for a late consolation goal.
Ochoa’s standout performances both came in Fortaleza, against Brazil and the Netherlands.
After Sunday’s game, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal’s single note of praise for his opponents was for their goalkeeper and how his skills prompted him to change tactics.
“We shot at the goal and Ochoa made a fantastic save,” the Dutch coach said referring to De Vrij’s effort. “After that we moved to Plan B.”
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