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2014 WORLD CUP BRAZIL | BRAZIL 0 - MEXICO 0

Brazil’s artillery repelled by magnificent Ochoa

Brazil’s artillery repelled by magnificent Ochoa

KAI PFAFFENBACH

REUTERS

A succession of saves from the Mexican custodian denied Brazil from chalking their second win in the tournament.

Seeing as the world of football is paradise for excuse-making, Brazil will argue that the only reason they didn’t beat Mexico tonight was for the colossal performance of ‘Memo’ Ochoa. The television images confirm what an outstanding game the goalkeeper enjoyed in Fortaleza – the kind of which will be talked about and enthused over for many years to come.

Yet should Brazil only see only the superficial side of the problem and hold Ochoa as the sole reason why they could only draw against Mexico then they would be very much mistaken. Once again, Scolari’s team were too mechanical, too methodical. The coach loves gestures such as the blazing rendition of the national anthem pre-kick-off, or placing a hand on the shoulder of a colleague as they make their way out onto the pitch – he might be considering supplying his players with fluorescent jackets, asbestos gloves and safety helmets – even if it’s just for the pre-match warm-up. Neymar aside, Brazil’s proposal is pure industrial football - tactics which consist of bombarding their opponents’ box with wave after wave of deep balls but with no other intention than gaining a free-kick or maybe even a corner. In that sense, Brazil are like a steam hammer – but even the best and most productive steam hammers come to rest against an anvil and this evening – that anvil was Ochoa.

And if you decide to employ that brand of industrial football against a side who run as much as you, suffer as much as you and have balls as big as the pyramids at Chichén Itzá well, it’s pretty clear that you’re going to need a Plan B – an alternative to ‘Plan A’ which for Brazil, in other times, meant playing their own joyous style of football. Scolari gave up on that a while ago and to give him some credit, it hasn’t worked out too badly for him so far.

Mexico set their stall out right from kick-off and were subjected to two fouls within the first 19 seconds. It seemed to echo what Scolari had said in the press conference: “Let nobody think that we’re going to be the congenial party hosts right from the off”. They certainly weren’t. Their guests made themselves feel at home, raided the fridge, grabbed a few beers and slumped down on the sofa. And the hosts didn’t quite know how to respond.

Brazil relied on stunning Mexico by hitting them on the counter but the Aztecs’ intensity stopped them from taking control of the game. There was no way past Márquez, Maza and Héctor Moreno, Gallo Vazquez commanded the centre of the park and in attack, Giovani dos Santos and Peralta kept the Brazilians on their toes.

The advantage of having Neymar in the side is that, even when he plays badly, he can decide a game. On 25 minutes he leapt like we have never seen him do at Camp Nou to meet Dani Alves’ cross and send a potent header hurtling towards goal. Ochoa responded with his first miracle save of the night, extending a hand to somehow, palm the ball around the post. In terms of sheer impact, it was reminiscent of Gordon Banks’ impossible wonder save against Pelé at Mexico ’70.

Ochoa’s next miracle save came just before half-time when he blocked a David Luiz piledriver. Scolari decided to make changes in the second half and introduced Bernard, who failed to inspire, and Jo, who managed to make Fred’s dismal display look impressive. In turn, Mexico started to press forward and give Brazil’s back four the jitters. The hosts had two late opportunities to sentence the match through Neymar and Thiago Silva but in the end, the force was with Ochoa.

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