Nigeria, Mexico settle for scoreless tie
ATLANTA -- Raul Jimenez's late header for Mexico went just wide in a 0-0 draw with Nigeria in an international friendly Wednesday at the Georgia Dome.
The game between World Cup qualifiers attracted 68,212 fans, the largest crowd for a football match in Atlanta. The previous record was 54,229 for a 2013 Gold Cup doubleheader that included Mexico.
The audience was distinctly pro-Mexican, and did not have a lot to cheer about in the early going as the 21st-ranked El Tri failed to muster much in the first half.
Mexico 'keeper Guillermo Ochoa made two of his three first-half saves within a minute of each other, first in the 12th minute when Nigerian forward Emmanuel Emenikie snaked his way past the defense only to have Ochoa punch away his shot from about 20 yards. Soon after, Nigeria _ No. 47 in the FIFA world rankings _ played a corner from the right. The ball found its way high, and midfielder John Obi Mikel got a lead foot on it, sending a shot from 35 yards that Ochoa punched away.
Players on both squads have come together only recently from a variety of professional assignments.
"We have to be more together,'' Mexico coach Miguel Herrera said. "With one day of work, it's very difficult. ... We were not able to generate a lot of opportunities. There just wasn't time to prepare. Too many players were in Europe, and they like to play a certain way.''
Nigerian captain and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama had to make only one save in the first half. He was replaced in the second half by Austin Ejide, who was much busier as Mexico built tempo after halftime.
"This is not the final squad ... nobody is guaranteed a spot,'' Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi said. "We didn't really play our style. We've been out for about four or five months ... with different teams ... different styles. That's why I'm glad we played a team like Mexico (that keeps the ball on the ground).''
Mexico will play a friendly the United States on April 2 in Glendale, Arizona.