DOHA, Qatar — Mexico and Poland kicked off their 2022 World Cup run with a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.
In a packed Stadium 974 with 39,369 in attendance, Mexico dominated possession and had boisterous support throughout the stands, but struggled to break down a defensive Polish side. In the second half, a penalty in Poland’s favor appeared ready to open up the scoresheet, before Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa dramatically saved Robert Lewandowski’s attempt in the 58th minute.
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With no goals by the final whistle and a point each, Saudi Arabia are the current leaders of Group C after a stunning 2-1 result over Argentina earlier in the day.
JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. Guillermo Ochoa, once again, Mexico’s savior
Time and time again, Mexico have literally been saved by Ochoa. After stepping up with crucial performances in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, Ochoa would make his mark once again after saving a penalty in the 58th minute from Lewandowski, sending the heavily pro-Mexico crowd into a frenzy.
El Tri weren’t able to respond on the other end of the pitch and finished scoreless in the 0-0 draw, but the save from Ochoa undoubtedly felt just as impactful as any goal that a player could have scored that night for Mexico.
In the remaining group stage matches, expect the 37-year-old to once again be an invaluable figure in net.
2. Poland and Mexico fail to distance themselves from Argentina
There was a buzz in the air from both Mexico and Poland fans about not only their upcoming match, but the fact that group-favorites Argentina had fallen to a shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia earlier in the day. With the result cemented for Argentina, both Mexico and Poland had a massive opportunity to put three points between themselves and the South American giants.
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Instead of playing proactively, both avoided taking many risks in the draw and now have just a one-point cushion over Argentina. Depending on how things go in the group stage that has already become unpredictable, at least one of the two will likely regret the opportunity on Tuesday to secure three points.
3. Goalscoring issues emerge for El Tri
Unfortunately for Mexico, Tuesday night’s game felt like a perfect summarization of what has been a worrisome year in their attack. As seen against Poland, El Tri typically do an excellent job of holding possession, switching the field, but once in the final third, they often run out of ideas.
With the significant amount of possession they had, it was disappointing to see the lack of enough dangerous goalscoring opportunities being created and also issues with finishing those chances. Tuesday’s result isn’t the worst for El Tri, but they won’t last long in the group stage if nothing changes in the attack.
That said, a silver-lining was Raul Jimenez’s introduction into the second half. Recently back from a lengthy groin injury, Mexico’s No. 1 striker looked nearly at full fitness during his limited time on the pitch.
Player ratings (1 = worst, 10 = best)
Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa 9, Jorge Sanchez 6, Cesar Montes 6, Hector Moreno 5, Jesus Gallardo 7, Edson Alvarez 7, Hector Herrera 6, Luis Chavez 7, Hirving Lozano 8, Henry Martin 6, Alexis Vega 7
Subs: Raul Jimenez 6, Carlos Rodriguez 6, Uriel Antuna 6
Poland: Wojciech Szczęsny 7, Bartosz Bereszyński 5, Kamil Glik 6, Jakub Kiwior 7, Matty Cash 7, Jakub Kamiński 6, Grzegorz Krychowiak 6, Sebastian Szymański 7, Nicola Zalewski 6, Piotr Zieliński 6, Robert Lewandowski 5
Subs: Krystian Bielik 6, Przemysław Frankowski 6, Arkadiusz Milik 6
Best and worst performers
BEST: Guillermo Ochoa
Who else but Ochoa? In the defining moment of the match, the Club America goalkeeper stood tall and shut down the penalty opportunity from Lewandowski.
WORST: Robert Lewandowski
Missing the penalty alone was a lowlight, but so was his real lack of attacking threat. Lewandowski is one of the greatest strikers in the world, but also looked far from one on Tuesday.
Highlights and notable moments
Ochoa saving Lewandowski’s penalty is undeniably the talking point of the match.
OCHOA BLOCKS LEWANDOWSKI’S PENALTY FOR MEXICO 😱🇲🇽 pic.twitter.com/j9qO1Sodyt
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 22, 2022
Guillermo Ochoa becomes the second #MEX goalkeeper to save a penalty shot in a World Cup match and first since Oscar Bonfiglio during the inaugural 1930 World Cup. #Qatar2022 pic.twitter.com/DunvF73wNI
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 22, 2022
Robert Lewandowski’s miss could prove costly for Poland further into the group stage.
1 – Poland are the first team to fail to convert 3 consecutive World Cup penalties (excl. shoutouts) since Opta collects this data (1966).
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) November 22, 2022
After the match: What the players and managers said
Mexico’s Ochoa: “It’s been awhile since I stopped a penalty. I’m grateful to help the national team.”
Poland’s Szczesny: “I congratulate him [Ochoa], because he made an unbelievable save.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– Ochoa fourth clean sheet in World Cups. Most for a Mexican goalkeeper. Pablo Larios had 3 in 1986.
– Mexico has failed to score in each of the last 3 second halves at the World Cup in which it was tied at halftime.
– Ochoa: 1st saved penalty kick with Mexico since 2017 Confederations Cup. He had conceded the last 9 PKs he’d faced with Mexico.
Mexico: El Tri face off on Nov. 26 against an Argentina side who will be desperate for their first win a the 2022 World Cup, followed by a match against Saudi Arabia on Nov. 30.
Poland: Lewandowski & Co. face group C leaders Saudi Arabia next on Nov. 26 followed by a critical match against Argentina on Nov. 30.