DOHA, Qatar — Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa — Man of the Match in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Poland — would trade personal success to get to at least the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
“Everything, I would trade everything to get to the quinto partido (fifth game),” said Ochoa, who surpassed countryman Pablo Lario’s total of three World Cup clean sheets with the result.
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Reaching the fifth game and the quarterfinal stage has become a national obsession in Mexico. With seven consecutive exits in the World Cup’s round of 16, being able to play that additional match beyond the fourth is a constant talking point for media and fans who follow El Tri.
Mexico will need to be more clinical in front of goal to get out of their group and into the knockout rounds, but their 37-year-old goalkeeper showed on Tuesday why he could potentially be a part of that run — especially after stopping a penalty from Poland star Robert Lewandowski in the second half.
Ochoa provided the highlight of the night after keeping out Lewandowski’s spot kick to keep his clean sheet and Mexico in the game.
“We worked with the goalkeeping coach on how Lewandowski is used to shooting penalties, although it’s difficult to predict it, because he has 25 different ways to take them,” Ochoa said after the match. “He is a great player and goalscorer.”
However, it was Ochoa who was better on the night, helping Mexico secure a vital point in their opening match in Group C.
Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina 2-1 earlier in the day, putting the Asian team atop the group, with Poland and Mexico level at a point each in second and Argentina in last.
Ochoa and El Tri will face Argentina (Nov. 26) at Lusail Stadium before closing out the group stage against Saudi Arabia (Nov. 30) at the same venue.
Manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s side enjoyed more possession against Poland, but without Raul Jimenez leading the attack, Henry Martin struggled to finish off chances in the box and Alexis Vega was guilty of missing opportunities.
“In the first half, we needed to be accurate in front of goal,” Martino told reporters. “We had three chances in the first half, but did very well in intensity and controlling the tempo of the game and also watching out to make sure Poland wouldn’t go for the counter-attack.
“In the second half we had more isolated chances with Vega and Chucky [Lozano] especially, but then in the final stages of the match, we could only find our centre forward.
“We were missing some more shot accuracy.”