FIFA World Cup 2022: The enigma named Guillermo Ochoa

Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has achieved something of a cult hero status at World Cups. With his frizzy hair and headband, there’s no mistaking the veteran who currently holds the record for most goalkeeping appearances for Mexico. While his stats may not reveal the impact he’s had in the tournament at first glance, a quick search on YouTube and you’ll be inundated with videos of his amazing saves. With the FIFA World Cup 2022 just around the corner, it could be the last time he takes part in this competition and football fans around the world will be expecting more exploits from the footballer nicknamed ‘Memo’.

Ochoa made his Mexico debut against Hungary in 2005, and despite being included in the 2006 World Cup squad, he was exclusively the third-choice goalkeeper. However, in 2010 he entered the competition as a key player for Mexican club Americas but the result was the same. He watched Mexico drop out of the group stage of the competition without a single minute of play.

When Mexico reached Brazil for the 2014 edition of the tournament, Ochoa was undeniable as their first choice. Already a veteran with experience in both the French and Spanish leagues, he started the season without conceding against Cameroon but it is against Brazil that he will find fame. Against an onslaught of world-class talent like Oscar and Neymar, he made six saves – including a blinder against Fred – to earn a well-deserved point for his national team. Even the legendary Pele compared him to the English legend Gordon Banks because of his saves.

The great run of form continued against Croatia as he quickly gained popularity due to his sporting saves and keen awareness. He met the Netherlands again in the round of 16 and although Mexico lost to a late penalty, Ochoa was a name almost all football fans knew.

What followed was a flurry of transfer rumors ranging from Chelsea to Arsenal. But he continued to play in La Liga, followed by a move to Belgian champions Standard Liège.

In 2018, it looked like Ochoa picked up right where he left off in 2014. He made an impressive 25 saves in just four games – the same as Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois but in fewer games. In a group that included heavyweights like Germany and South Korea, he proved a crucial factor and before eventually losing to Brazil, Ochoa looked almost invincible between the posts.

Farewell with a touch of controversy

Ahead of the 2022 World Cup, Ochoa actually got into a bit of a controversy. Kavak, a company in which the veteran goalkeeper owns a lot of shares, also sponsors the Argentina soccer team, which hasn’t gone over well with some pundits and fans alike.

However, all of that is in the past. Mexico face another tough challenge with Argentina and Poland featured in their group. In that case, keeping a clean sheet will be nothing short of gold dust for El Tri and when fans will once again expect magic from Guillermo Ochoa.