The World Cup is a prestigious tournament where the stars of the modern game shine on the biggest stage in the world.
When thinking of World Cup “Legends”, the household names are usually mentioned. The likes of Maradona and Pele who, for many reasons are remembered as icons, go down in history for their achievements.
However, the World Cup in 2014 was different. It wasn’t dominated by already established talents such as Ronaldo or Messi. Instead, it was a breeding ground for the lesser-known, undiscovered diamonds in the rough. One of which, Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Ochoa began his club career at Club América where he made 219 appearances for the Mexican side having joined them in 2004 and helping them to his first league title in 2005.
This is where he plied his trade, up until 2011 when he moved on to Ligue 2 side Ajaccio in France. He would spend 3 years at the club; racking up a total of 112 appearances before he made his name known to the world.
Despite being apart of Mexico’s 23-man squad since 2005, Ochoa was yet to make an appearance for the central American side – quite surprising when you consider their goalkeeping options. Little did he know that 2014 was to be his breakout tournament which would cement his place in the team for years to come.
On his debut, he helped his side to a 1-0 victory over Cameroon – a sign of things to come for the acrobatic keeper.
However, it was his heroics against the Brazilians that warranted comparisons to the likes of Gordon Banks after a fantastic save denying a Neymar header. The game ended 0-0 with the keeper quite rightly awarded Man Of The Match.
After the game, the shot-stopper claimed it “was the match of his life”. No surprise considering the lack of playing time he had before hand.
Next up was a tough fixture against Croatia – one of the favourites in the group at the time. Surely the Mexicans had ran out of gas? It couldn’t have been simpler though as Ochoa and his men brushed aside Croatia in a convincing 3-1 win; leading to yet another barrage of praise on the now well-known keeper. Mexico were through to the Round of 16.
Now Ochoa faced arguably the toughest opponents yet, the Netherlands. The Dutch side was full to the brim with talent; with the likes of Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben to name a few.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite the fairy-tale ending for the shot-stopper we’d all hoped for as he conceded a heart-breaking penalty in the 91st minute which saw his side knocked out of the competition.
Mexico knew, however, that they’d given it their all; they’d put everything they had into every game and knew that they could exit with their heads held high – especially Ochoa. Over the next few weeks, the keeper was subject to praise from across the globe for his goalkeeping heroics and, quite simply sublime, saves, earning him a place in Mexican footballing history.
A quick reminder that no matter your club status, anyone can pull on their nation’s colours and showcase their undiscovered talent.