Mexico goalkeeper Ochoa deserves move to top European team

Guillermo Ochoa Mexico
Laurence Griffiths
The shot-stopper was named Man of the Match after some stunning saves Sunday, and showed he is capable of playing at the game's highest levels

Guillermo Ochoa has saved his team so many times, now it's time for someone to save him.

Twice in Sunday's third-place game he was asked to stop players from 12 yards out after his defenders committed penalties in the box. Once he was able to rise to the occasion, but he was unable to stop Andre Silva from the spot a second time as Portugal topped Mexico 2-1 to take third place in the Confederations Cup.

"As a Mexican, as a national team player, I feel proud of my team, of the national team that always showed its face, the way in which the people treated us, the reorganization they've given us when they've seen Mexico in Russia, and we go with a taste for revenge in our mouths for the World Cup, with the desire to return and do better," the goalkeeper said at a news conference after the game.

How hard was the luck Ochoa and Mexico were dealt Sunday? Portugal became the first team to have a penalty save, score an own goal and have a player sent off in the same game of any FIFA senior tournament, according to stats guru MisterChip, and it still won the match.

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"I feel in good form, I'm trying to be good every game, to help my teammates when I'm called on to be on the field," Ochoa said after the match. "Sometimes there are games where things go well for you, others not as much, but that's how goalkeeping is. You have to be consistent, try to stay regular. Today we leave with our heads high because I think we played a smart game, a game against a tough opponent."

It's just the latest frustration for the former America star. For the past several years, Ochoa has been the soup can in a shooting gallery. After playing with Ajaccio, Malaga and Granada, he's left his club to join up with Mexico. For both club and country he's had to cope with porous defenses, as he did throughout the Confederations Cup. The goals have piled up behind him, as the player who was between the posts for Thursday's 4-1 loss to Germany in this summer's tournament and the 7-0 loss to Chile in last summer's.

It was the same at club level where he suffered results like 5-0 and 4-0 losses to Real Madrid, a 7-1 defeat away to Atletico and a 4-1 loss at home to Barcelona in a season that saw the club win just four times times.

But as he showed in Sunday's with both his quality penalty save in the first half to keep the game scoreless and his denial of Gelson Martins in the 61st minute from this header, Ochoa is a keeper who is more than capable of stopping some of Europe's best.

Now, after Granada's relegation, he could get the chance. While it's not clear if he'll continue in La Liga or move back to Ligue 1, where he also suffered through a terrible defense as Ajaccio's savior from 2011 until 2014, a move to a club where he can be the No. 1 may finally come.

Malaga seemed to be that destination only for Carlos Kameni to put an unbreakable grip on the starting spot. Now, the rumors have him heading to Marseille or joining a bigger club in La Liga. Either club will get a gem of a goalkeeper who continues to shine tournament after tournament.

Guillermo Ochoa Mexico Portugal

After the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where Ochoa kept a clean sheet against the host nation with six saves, a move to a bigger club seemed to be looming. Liverpool was among the clubs that multiple reports confirmed to be interested in the goalkeeper. With the 2018 World Cup approaching, Ochoa is still in top form and a transfer to a club where he could continue to fine-tune his skills would be well-deserved for the 31-year-old.

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Ochoa still has his limitations. He's not even the best Mexican goalkeeper in the air, an honor that coach Juan Carlos Osorio reserves for Alfredo Talavera, and he's not the right fit for a coach who wants a keeper who will come use his feet. (Yes, despite what he'd have you believe with his charge forward late in the game to try and head in a set piece, his attacking skills are limited.)

Overall, though, his game against the champions of Europe is extra evidence to support the case that he could stop Europe's best at a regular basis on the club level as well. Ochoa deserves the chance to put himself to that challenge and also - he can only pray - the chance to play behind a top-caliber defense, something that has eluded him both at the club level and in international play for far too long.