Guillermo Ochoa ahead of Costa Rica match: 'This isn't Keylor against Memo'
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has played down the rivalry between himself and Costa Rica's Keylor Navas ahead of Tuesday's World Cup qualifier between the two.
Costa Rica assistant Luis Marin sparked a debate back in March when he stated that Ochoa didn't even have to tools to "clean Keylor Navas' boots."
Both goalkeepers were praised for their performances at Brazil 2014, but whereas Navas has gone on to become the established No. 1 at Real Madrid, Ochoa moved to Malaga, before stints at Granada and current club Standard Liege in Belgium's first division.
"There were some comments that were out of place," said Ochoa in Monday's pregame press conference. "I'll repeat today that players and coaching staff shouldn't fall for provocation from other people. I respect Keylor, he's having a great career, he's doing marvelously and he deserves to be where he is."
"He has his career, I have mine and this isn't Keylor against Memo," added Ochoa. "He does his thing for his country and team and I do mine for my country and that's all."
Last time Mexico and Ochoa visited Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying, El Tri was fighting for survival in the Hexagonal and in need of a result. The pressure was on, but Mexico ended up losing 2-1 and almost missed out on Brazil 2014, with the United States scoring late in the final round of matches in qualifying to rescue them and eliminate Panama.
Four years on, Ochoa believes that the fact Osorio has been in charge for an extended spell has helped provide the bedrock to qualify for Russia 2018 with relative ease.
"One [reason for the upturn in fortune] without any doubt is the continuity, the calm that should exist inside the group," said Ochoa.
"In a national team you have very little time to work, few days to be with players and many times the call-ups are complicated, especially in these dates when you're coming off a preseason."
Ochoa also pointed to other factors for the improvement, adding: "The growth of the players. Little by little us Mexican players have grown individually, mentally and in terms of maturity.
"It's the calm that allows you to approach games in a distinct way, enjoying them, but taking on the responsibility as well.
Ochoa added that the desire for what happened in the past qualification to not happen again has been an extra motivation.
Mexico sits unbeaten in first place of the Hexagonal table on 17 points from seven games, with Costa Rica in second on 14, needing a win to guarantee Los Ticos' place in Russia 2018.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.