Herrera's gamble on Ochoa is rewarded with strong performance vs. Brazil
I want to say it was a few months ago, just to give me a bit of credibility, but it was actually just a couple of weeks ago.
Back then, my assumption was that Jose de Jesus Corona was Mexico's best goalkeeping option. He was near-perfect in goal for quite some time in Mexico and was one of the few standouts during El Tri's disastrous 2013.
My reasoning was this: Guillermo Ochoa was slightly more talented, but Corona hadn't made enough mistakes to justify taking him out in goal. I believe it was my colleague, Tom Marshall, who said Ochoa seemed like the kind of player who would give Mexico vital saves in the World Cup. I disagreed, but was obviously proved incorrect yesterday.
Don't get me wrong, I love Ochoa, Corona and even to an extent Alfredo Talavera. There is much talent in all three options, but Ochoa had undoubtedly solidified himself as the best option after his outstanding 90 minutes against Brazil. A bold move from manager Miguel Herrera but a good call.
It's impossible to know whether Corona was capable of making those same saves that Ochoa did, but I would rather stick with Ochoa at this point after that massive game in Fortaleza.
The former Ajaccio stopper has helped Mexico remain undefeated so far in the World Cup. Undefeated, with two shutouts, and four points to show.
To me, as a fan, having those four points after the second game is massive. I'm well aware of the fact that Mexico has been at the exact same spot, with four points after two games, in the last two World Cups, but I'm still ecstatic.
One of those points was against Brazil. A Brazil squad that El Tri were just inches away from beating and securing another three points. A Brazil squad that almost let in a goal from Jose Juan Vazquez. Vazquez, who, a few years ago, would have laughed from his practice with his third-division squad if you were to tell him that he would start in the next World Cup for Mexico and almost score on Brazil.
It's honestly still hard for me to believe. I want to go up to random people and yell "MEXICO TIED BRAZIL TODAY!" Which would be bewildering for many, wondering why I would get so excited about a game that Mexico hadn't even won.
I predicted that Mexico would tie the game, but in the back of my mind, I thought they would lose. A tie seemed just as likely as 3-0 or 4-0 loss. A one-sided loss seemed completely plausible beforehand, didn't it? Neymar zig-zagging through Mexico's backline, Oscar creating beautiful crosses and Paulinho dominating the midfield. Many online "odds" websites almost made it seem impossible that Mexico would even tie against Brazil.
Yet, here remains the score: 0-0. A scoreline that seems boring and flat but is beautiful and hopeful for Mexico fans. Now, afterward, all eyes will be on Croatia versus Cameroon today.
If Cameroon can finish with a win or even a tie, it will bode very well for Mexico. There may even be a small chance that Mexico can still finish in first place if the stars align. Either way, El Tri can rest easy heading into their final game next week with a solid four points.
If Mexico beats Croatia, it would only be the second time since 1994 that they have won two games in the group stage in the World Cup. It may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but it truly would be, considering the drama that the team has gone through the past couple of years.
Cesar Hernandez can't remember a time when soccer hasn't been a part of his daily life. Within that is a lifelong passion for El Tri. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.