Ochoa was monumental in Mexico’s intense 0-0 draw against Felipão’s Seleção. It almost seemed as if, in the 27th minute, Neymar was going to put Brazil one up early on. The resulting consequences that would have ensued could have easily been too much to handle for Mexico. But it was Ochoa’s courageous effort to deny Neymar’s header and that’s what mattered at the end of the game.
What followed was a tireless Mexico display in front of their loyal fans at a rowdy Fortaleza. The whole team, for large intervals of time, bossed Brazil around and dictated the tempo. Likewise, Brazil took the game to Mexico for other intervals of the match. Not to discredit Ochoa’s “best game” of his life, but lets also acknowledge the monumental performances from all the outfield players (Gallito Vasquez, in particular).
The pressure and organization found in Mexico against Brazil will need to translate into a nothing less than a win. Of course, mathematically, if Mexico were to tie with Croatia in the final match, Piojo’s men would still advance. However, the win is what is needed in order for Mexico to continue their impressive momentum.
Jose “Gallito” Vasquez – in particular – had undoubtedly his best competitive game with Mexico. He chased down every ball no matter the size of his opponent. Along with Vasquez, Guardadoshone in the right time. After a quiet year for both club and country, Guardado worked Brazil and improved his distribution throughout the match. El ‘Gallo’ and Guardado, indeed, will both need to be instrumental – but against Croatia come next Monday.
On the defensive end of matters, Rafa Marquez got the job done not only as a defender, but also as a center mid. He drove down the middle, when Mexico was on the break, and was purposeful while progressing the play. While Aguilar and Layun had more hiccups in their performance than Moreno and Rodriguez, the two fullbacks displayed heart and courage in their game.
On the flip side of the coin, Herrera and Peralta both had quiet games. Herrera didn’t look as his lethal self and Mexico’s lethal quality was, as a result, dwindled to a couple of wide shots taken outside the box. David Luiz, additionally, shut down Peralta’s services both outside the box and down the middle. Against Croatia, however, Peralta should be able to work outside the box and down the middle with much more fluidity.
Croatia will also be going into the next game with momentum on their side. Their 4-0dismantling of Cameroon will give them the same hope that Mexico does to advance into the next round. Piojo and Mexico must recognize this, but more importantly, all of El Tri will need to play the same as they did against Cameroon and Brazil.
What makes the World Cup so enthralling is the thought that at any time, throughout the tournament, if you so happen to lose sight of what is important (a victory) you can be eliminated in an instant.
Mexico’s rejuvenated unity coming into the World Cup (a lot of credit should be given to Piojo for the confidence put into this team) seems to be gearing them onto the next round. This is the true opportunity for Mexico to erase a previous year of frustrating results and performances in World Cup qualifiers, as well as friendlies. Mexico’s final test will be next week. Priority number one for Piojo: win.