Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa, warmly known as “Memo” to the team’s supporters, stopped all eight shots on goal as El Tri played host (and tournament favorite) Brazil to a 0-0 draw in Fortaleza. It was the second clean sheet in as many World Cup matches for Ochoa, who was also in goal for Mexico last Friday during their 1-0 defeat of Cameroon.
“(Mexico) has a very good goalkeeper who had a very good day,” said Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari after the stalemate at Estadio Castelao. “That is why we could not win.”
Ochoa had been to two previous World Cups with Mexico, in 2006 and 2010, but had never seen a minute of action. This year the 28 year-old Guadalajara native was named the starter over Jose de Jesus Corona only days before the World Cup began. “We haven’t been mistaken,” Mexican coach Miguel Herrera told the New York Times. “It seems Memo has lived up to it with his attitude. He is enjoying the World Cup, after being at World Cup's on the bench.”
The draw puts Brazil and Mexico atop Group A with four points each while Cameroon and Croatia, who meet today, each have zero. The winner of their match will remain viable heading into the final game of the group stage,while the loser would be eliminated.
As for Memo, who is a free agent after playing with a French Association club, A.J. Ajaccio, on the island of Corsica (footballers have it rough), the past few seasons, a shutout of FIFA’s No.1 ranked team on their home soil left him in awe. “It was the match of my life,” he said. “To do it in a World Cup, in front of all the fans, it’s incredible.”
The last four nations to take the pitch in Brazil—Algeria, Belgium, Russia and South Korea—finally got their kits messy on the sixth day of the World Cup. Favored Belgium, which is ranked 11th in the world by FIFA, fell behind the Desert Foxes of Algeria in the 24th minute courtesy of a Sofiane Feghouli penalty kick. It was the northern African nation’s first World Cup goal since 1982.
In the second half the Red Devils came back with two picturesque goals to seal the victory in Belo Horizonte. In the 70th minute six-foot-four Marouane Fellaini somehow headed in a pass into the net despite facing the opposite direction to tie the score. Ten minutes later a decisive tackle led to a Belgian counter attack that ended with Dries Mertens finishing what was essentially a three-on-two fast break.
Belgium prevailed, 2-1.
In the final first match of the World Cup (even though Brazil and Mexico had already played two at the moment of kickoff), Russia met the Korean Republic in Cuiaba. If a ringed target were superimposed over South America, Cuiaba would be in the bull’s eye. It is equidistant between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, about 1,240 miles in either direction.
Here, in the heart of South America in Arena Pantanal, South Korea and Russia played to a 1-1 draw. The Koreans took a 1-0 lead in the 68th minute when Lee Keun-Ho’s strike from beyond the penalty box slipped through the fingers of Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev, who never even needed to move in order to catch the try. “It’s the simplest of saves,” said ESPN analyst Casey Keller, the former U.S. team goaltender. “That’s why they call it a mistake.”
Russia atoned for its error six minutes later, as substitute Alexander Kerzhakov pinballed in the equalizer after a save ricocheted off a couple of players deep in the penalty box.
And there it ended, a 1-1 draw.
Match of the Day
Spain vs. Chile
Rio de Janeiro 3 p.m.
La Furia Roja (“the Red Fury”) were anything but in their meek 5-1 opening match defeat to the Netherlands last Friday. Now the defending World Cup champions face a Group C must-win situation in the southern hemisphere’s most hallowed soccer stadium, Maracana, versus a Chilean team that opened with a victory against Australia last Saturday.
Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who just happens to date the most popular television presenter in Spain, Sara Carbonero, may be benched for the match after his woeful performance versus the Dutch.
Wager of the Day
Australia vs. Netherlands
Porto Alegre, Noon
Perhaps only Germany looked as impressive as the Oranje did in their first outing. Today the double Dutch tandem of Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie take on the Socceroos, whose No. 62 FIFA world ranking is the lowest of any side in the tournament. Even a draw by the Socceroos in Porto Alegre, the southernmost of the 12 host citeies, would be a monumental upset.