FIFA Men's World Cup
Guillermo Ochoa knows he'll need to tap into 'genius' level for Mexico
FIFA Men's World Cup

Guillermo Ochoa knows he'll need to tap into 'genius' level for Mexico

Updated Nov. 22, 2022 1:27 p.m. ET

Editor's note: Mexico and Poland battled to a scoreless draw on Nov. 22, but Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa had the play of the game with a huge save on a Robert Lewandowski on a penalty kick. It only reinforced his big game reputation, as he became the first Mexican goalkeeper to save a penalty shot in a World Cup match since Oscar Bonfiglio during the inaugural 1930 World Cup. Below is a story that originally published Nov. 21 ahead of the match.

Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa saves a PK from Robert Lewandowski in the 57th minute against Poland

Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa saves a PK from Robert Lewandowski in the 57th minute against Poland after foul from Jakub Kiwior.

Some players cave under the pressure of a World Cup. Others are inspired to reach newfound heights.

Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, the moment soccer’s grandest tournament arrives? He turns into an entirely different player, discovering a kind of cheat code that has made him a World Cup legend.


Ahead of Mexico’s opening Group C clash with Poland on Tuesday, Ochoa was hailed as a "genius" by Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny and admitted there is something about the tournament that allows him to conjure spectacular performances.

If Mexico is to end its frustrating historic record of partial success, he will need to once again turn into a human brick wall, especially with the squad due to face two of the world’s best forwards in Poland's Robert Lewandowski and Argentina’s Lionel Messi.

"I feel really grateful for Szczesny’s comments," Ochoa told reporters. "To be praised and recognized for your work, internationally and globally, means I’ve done good work, that I was permanent and a regular presence at the World Cup. To hear this from someone like him, he has been at the top level worldwide, so I am very grateful for that. This is always a great source of motivation to keep on working and reach your goal.

"There have been great players in history who never had a chance to play at a World Cup, so for me to have the chance to play five is wonderful, amazing. But, of course, I want this World Cup to be very different and to be the best of all time for Mexico."  

In terms of getting out of its World Cup qualifying group, Mexico has enjoyed a remarkable level of consistency. At each of the past seven World Cups, the team has moved forward to the knockout stage, an achievement that the likes of Argentina, Spain, Germany, England and France have been unable to match. 

The problem is, on every one of those occasions, defeat has followed in the round of 16, leaving Mexican fans desperately wishing for a "quinto partido" – a fifth game. 

"Many times at a World Cup you are too excited, too nervous, too anxious, and if you make mistakes everything is too extreme," Ochoa added. "You need to find that emotional balance that they need, after success or after mistakes, all the time. 

"We know we have a team capable of competing with anybody. Starting with three points in your bag against Poland is of the essence." 

After taking on Poland at Stadium 974 on Tuesday (11 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), Mexico will meet Argentina four days later and Saudi Arabia on Nov. 30.  

Mexico reached the World Cup with 28 points in CONCACAF’s final Octagonal qualifying stage, equal with table-toppers Canada.  

Ochoa’s most epic World Cup performance came against Brazil in 2014, when he made six excellent saves to hold the host nation and five-time champion to a 0-0 tie in Fortaleza. 

"The game against Brazil was a turning point in my career," he said. "People remind me of that in the street, in different countries." 

Now 37, this is likely his last World Cup. He currently plays his club soccer with Club America, where even his biggest supporters would admit his recent performances have been sometimes shaky. 

But this is the World Cup. Where, for whatever reason, he has found his happy place. 

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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