Things have rarely been straightforward for Guillermo Ochoa.
A hotshot goalkeeping prospect for Club America, he won the 2005 Clausura title and 2006 CONCACAF Champions Cup before being jettisoned into the Mexican national team as a 20-year-old.
Success at the Gold Cup followed three years later, but in 2011 he was part of a group of players withdrawn from the national setup after testing positive for a banned substance found in contaminated meat—something for which he was later acquitted.
Nevertheless, his international career had already hit the rocks by that point, as at the 2010 World Cup he had served as the back-up to El Tri’s controversial No. 1, Oscar Perez.
Coming into the 2014 tournament he was anything but the consensus choice as starter, what with Cruz Azul’s Jesus Corona having wrestled the job away from him during a difficult qualification campaign. And with club side Ajaccio (he joined the French outfit in 2011) relegated in the spring, he arrived in Brazil as a free agent—playing for a job.
He was also playing for his family, per FIFA.com: "This is special, it’s for my family. They’re the ones who are there for me in the good times and the bad. Of course it was worth the wait [to play in a FIFA World Cup]. I never doubted my ability."
Given his standout performance against Brazil on Tuesday, he’ll have little difficulty finding one of those in the next few weeks.
Virtually untested in El Tri’s Group A opener against Cameroon on June 13, Ochoa was nothing short of heroic against the World Cup hosts. And he had to be, as Neymar, Paulinho and Thiago Silva popped up with quality chances from in close over the 90 minutes.
First it was Neymar.
Brazil had started to buzz in the latter stages of the first half, and the Barcelona forward thought he had finally found a breakthrough when he nodded a perfectly placed header toward the near corner.
But Ochoa—in an effort reminiscent of Gordon Banks on Pele in 1970—dove to his right and managed to get a hand on the ball just before it crossed the line. Neymar watched on in disbelief, knowing like the rest of us that he had likely witnessed the finest save of the competition.
And Ochoa wasn’t done just yet, as Brazil weren’t finished testing him.
Next up was Paulinho, who was denied by the 28-year-old after Silva had chested the ball into his path.
And then the Selecao captain himself contributed to Ochoa’s remarkable day when his header from six yards was saved by the keeper.
All told, Ochoa made six saves in Fortaleza—few of them easy. And while his performance was the primary reason Mexico came out of the match with a point, it will surely help in his search for employment as well.
Both Liverpool and Arsenal are reportedly interested in signing him, according to Anthony Chapman of the Express, although the offers will likely be pouring in following a career-defining afternoon at the World Cup.
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