The Mexico goalkeeper said he enjoyed "the game of my life" as El Tri grabbed a scoreless draw against Brazil.
Sorry, Jesus Corona. There is no longer any doubt over who should be Mexico’s starting goalkeeper: It’s Guillermo Ochoa.
During Mexico’s 0-0 Group A draw with Brazil on Tuesday, “Memo” Ochoa answered all doubters about just how good he can be. In all likelihood, he’ll now be given the nickname “San Memo” (Saint Memo) in his home country.
Ochoa told Mexican TV straight after coming off the field that this was his best performance of his career and he certainly captured the world’s attention on the biggest of stages.
“It was the game of my life,” he told TV Azteca.
Ochoa’s moment arrived in the 27th minute, when Neymar outleapt Rafa Marquez and steered a header toward the corner of the goal.
Mexico seemed to be to going behind before Ochoa scrambled across his line and didn’t so much push as claw the ball away. FIFA’s new goal-line technology showed some of it had crossed the white line.
The save wasn’t a million miles away from Gordon Banks' famous stop for England against Pele in 1970, which is widely considered the greatest save ever at a World Cup.
Neymar just stared in disbelief. One of the memes put together after the game was a photo of Neymar crying with the emotion of the Brazilian anthem with the words: “Mommy, Ochoa wouldn’t let me score.”
Ochoa made three other saves of top quality, but the one on Neymar was the ‘keeper’s favorite.
“It was the most difficult because at first I didn’t think he was going to win the header and then he got it off quickly,” continued Ochoa. “But in that moment, you don’t think, you react.”
Ochoa said that the process of only knowing who would be Mexico’s starting ‘keeper the week of El Tri’s Cameroon opener wasn’t ideal, but he never questioned he could make a difference.
“I never doubted my ability,” he said. “I always knew I could help the national team. I kept working and there are the results.”
It has not been an easy road for Ochoa, who debuted as a teenager for Club America under Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker.
The now-28-year-old was quickly called into the national team. He joined the Mexico squad at Germany 2006 and was the starter ahead of South Africa 2010, before Javier Aguirre made the surprise choice of Oscar “Conejo” Perez as his No. 1.
After the tournament, the player was desperate to become the first Mexican goalkeeper to play in Europe’s top leagues in the modern era, but was hampered when he failed a drug test for the 2011 Gold Cup. Although he was later cleared of all wrongdoing, the rumors about a good-sized European team coming for him dried up.
Ligue 1 minnow Ajaccio swooped and Ochoa moved overseas, but he was forced once again to fight to become Mexico’s first choice.
Now with his contract dwindling down this summer, Ochoa’s heroic performance — which was similar to ones he has shown against top French clubs — was the perfect time to show potential new teams just what he is made of.
“Memo can move from France, but he would waste time in obtaining the European Union passport,” Ochoa’s agent Jorge Berlanga told ESPN after the game.
Berlanga added that Ochoa’s performance was the “cherry on the cake” of the hard work he has delivered in France and that an offer from a French club and another team involved in the Champions League next season had been turned down.
Ochoa can sleep sound in the knowledge more will be coming in.
Unlike many Mexican players who are happy to pick up good wages in the Liga MX, Ochoa took a risk and tried his luck at establishing himself in Europe. It suddenly looks like it has paid off in a major way.