ORTALEZA, Brazil — Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made a series of outstanding saves to help Mexico hold Brazil to a thrilling 0-0 draw at the World Cup on Tuesday.
The result leaves both teams with four points each after two games in Group A, but Brazil is ahead on goal difference going into their decisive final matches. Croatia and Cameroon meet on Wednesday for their second games after both opened with defeats.
Ochoa’s first remarkable save prevented Neymar from scoring in the 26th minute. The Brazil striker’s powerful header looked set to fly just inside the post when the goalkeeper dived to his right to push the ball wide.
Ochoa also made three other difficult saves to keep the hosts from breaking the deadlock — a shot by Paulinho in the 44th, a second-half effort by Neymar from inside the area and a close-range header by Thiago Silva in the 86th minute which produced a remarkable block by the Mexico goalkeeper.
“It was the match of my life,” said Ochoa, who was visibly moved after the match. “To do it in a World Cup, in front of all the fans, it’s incredible.”
Mexico coach Miguel Herrera called Ochoa the “hero” of the match.
“He did what we expected him to do, he came up with extraordinary saves,” Herrera said.
After stopping Silva’s header, there was still time for a thrilling end to the game in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.
The referee dismissed Brazilian claims for a penalty after Marcelo seemed to have been grabbed in the 88th minute. Mexico then had two great chances, first with Andres Guardado’s shot over the crossbar in the 90th and then with an effort by Raul Jimenez that was stopped by Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar in injury time.
“In the end, the 0-0 mirrors what happened, it was a very hard-fought match,” said Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. “The draw wasn’t a good result because a victory would have already allowed us to advance, but we need to be able to respect our opponent, which played very well.”
Russia 1, South Korea 1: At Cuiaba, Brazil, Alexander Kerzhakov scored with one of his first touches after coming on as a substitute to earn Russia a draw with South Korea in a World Cup match marked by the first big goalkeeping error of the tournament.
Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev spilled Lee Keun-ho’s speculative long-range shot into his own net to gift South Korea a 68th-minute lead at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba in Group H.
But Kerzhakov bailed his teammate out, turning in a shot from close range in the 74th — three minutes after coming on as a substitute — to rescue a point for Russia in a poor-quality match.
Akinfeev stayed on the ground inside his own net, head in his hands, after making his blunder, clearly embarrassed after dropping what was a routine save from a shot from about 30 yards. He was consoled by a couple of teammates, who patted him on the back, but could soon join in the celebrations when Kerzhakov equalized soon after.
The explosive six-minute spell that featured both goals was not in keeping with the rest of a fairly mundane game characterized by slow build-up play, poor passing and wayward finishing.
Belgium 2, Algeria 1: At Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Belgium opened its World Cup campaign with a comeback win over Algeria, relying on second-half goals from two substitutes after a tense start in Group H.
Algeria opened the scoring with a penalty in the 25th minute and the surprising lead stood for 45 minutes until Marouane Fellaini’s strong glancing header, with his back to goal, from a Kevin De Bruyne cross.
Fellaini, who many had considered would start the match, had only come onto the pitch five minutes earlier and was coach Marc Wilmots’ final substitution.
Dries Mertens’ right-foot strike beat Algeria’s goalkeeper in the 80th after Eden Hazard saw him free on the right and set him up for the decider. Mertens, who went on at the start of the second half, sent his shot high in the net outside of Rais Mbolhi’s reach.
”We knew it would be tough, that there would be no space,” said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots. “We made one error and we paid for it. The bench made the difference. We showed mental strength and we came back.”