Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa made four saves to help Mexico hold World Cup host Brazil to a 0-0 draw in their second game of the soccer tournament.
The Group A result in Fortaleza yesterday means both countries can still advance to the round-of-16 knockout stage with one group game left each. Brazil beat Croatia 3-1 in its opening game, while Mexico defeated Cameroon 1-0.
“It was just the goalkeeper stopped us from winning,” Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari told a news conference. “He made some spectacular saves.”
The top two teams in each pool move on, with the winner of the group playing the runnerup of another. That could mean a match with defending champion Spain, the Netherlands or Chile for the Group A teams.
Also yesterday, substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens scored late goals to give Belgium a 2-1 comeback win against Algeria in Group H. Both goals were also scored by substitutes in the other Group H contest as Russia tied South Korea 1-1.
There are three matches set for today: Cameroon against Croatia in Group A, plus Australia-Netherlands and Spain-Chile in Group B.
In Fortaleza, Ochoa pushed Neymar’s downward header off the goal line, almost colliding with the post, and came off his line to block Paulinho’s shot.
Mexico defended resolutely and began to dominate possession in the second half when Jose Vazquez and Hector Herrera hit long-range shots just over the crossbar.
Willed on by most of the crowd of 60,000, which created a sea of yellow jerseys, Brazil retook the initiative in the last 20 minutes without managing to beat Ochoa.
Ochoa, who went to the 2006 and 2010 World Cups without playing, kept out a 10-yard (nine-meter) shot from Neymar with his arm and, with about five minutes left, parried a goal-bound header by Thiago Silva.
“We go away happy because we got a result against the World Cup’s most successful team, the tournament favorite and the team playing at home,” Mexican manager Miguel Herrera told reporters.
Scolari said his team played “at least 10 percent” better than against Croatia. Some Brazilian fans in the crowd whistled at the end to show their displeasure.
“The result wasn’t what we wanted, but I’m happy,” Scolari said.
Mexican fans, some wearing oversized sombrero hats and wrestling masks, celebrated the draw.
“It was very emotional, almost like we won,” said Rafael Reyes, 65, whose son Diego plays for Mexico. “We can get to the semifinal playing like that.”
In Belo Horizonte, Belgium’s Fellaini scored in the 70th minute with a twisting header, 10 minutes before Mertens lashed a shot past Algeria goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi. Algeria had taken the lead with a 24th-minute penalty kick by Sofiane Feghouli after defender Jan Vertonghen fouled the midfielder.
In Cuiaba, Lee Keun-Ho gave South Korea a 1-0 lead in the 68th minute, 12 minutes after he entered as a substitute. His right-footed shot went through the hands of Russian goalie Igor Akinfeev. Alexander Kerzhakov, also a substitute, got the equalizer for Russia six minutes later off a scramble in front of the Korean net.