World Cup: Memo Ochoa helps Mexico escape with scoreless draw

Mexico goalkeeper Memo Ochoa blocks a penalty kick by Poland's Robert Lewandowski
Mexico goalkeeper Memo Ochoa blocks a penalty kick by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski during a World Cup Group C match at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday.
(Themba Hadebe / Associated Press)

Mexico could not deliver a breakthrough goal after a clutch Memo Ochoa save and finished tied Poland 0-0 during their World Cup opener.

Mexico and Poland settle for scoreless draw

Mexico and Poland couldn’t put together any strong runs in the final three minutes of the match and closed out their World Cup opener with a 0-0 tie.

The energy level generally dropped off in the second half after extensive Mexico pressure in the first half and Mexico goalkeeper Memo Ochoa delivering a stunning save on Robert Lewandowski’s penalty kick. It was the first time Lewandowski has missed a PK while representing Poland, while Ochoa has long been an elite World Cup stopper.

With Saudi Arabia shocking Argentina 2-1 in the early Group C game, the pressure will be on Mexico and Poland to fight their way out of a more competitive group than anticipated. If Argentina loses again, the team will be knocked out of the tournament to cap a frustrating run for superstar Lionel Messi on the international stage. Messi has been an exceptional goal scorer haunted by his failure to win a World Cup for his country during his elite career.


Memo Ochoa delivers another save

Memo Ochoa easily stopped a Poland shot in the 94th minute and gave Mexico a chance to push for a breakthrough goal.


Seven minutes of stoppage time

Can Mexico or Poland escape with a goal and a valuable advantage in Group C?

Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia, so a first-match win would be a huge advantage.

They’ll have seven minutes of stoppage time to clean up their work in the final third and try to get a shot on target.


Uriel Antuna replaces Alexis Vega for Mexico

Alexis Vega couldn’t complete a few first-half scoring chances and was replaced by Uriel Antuna in the 84th minute. Kevin Baxter chronicled Antuna’s journey from poverty to the international soccer stage.

Mexico needs a jolt from Antuna with the match still scoreless in the 88th minute.


Mexico denies Poland shot off corner, can’t score in transition

In the 82nd minute, Mexico’s defense cleared a dangerous Polish corner and eventually poked the ball out into transition.

Raúl Jiménez gathered the ball one-on-one, but couldn’t retain possession under pressure once he neared the Poland net and the ball rolled out of bounds.

Still 0-0 in the 83rd minute.


Sub Raúl Jiménez could boost Mexico

Tata Martino substituted Raúl Jiménez for Henry Martin in the 71st minute. It could give Mexico’s attack a boost. Jiménez has battled injury issues, but he has the potential to challenge Poland’s centerbacks thanks, in part, to his strength.

Mexico dominated possession in the first half, but the team hasn’t had as strong of a run early in the second half.


Poland turns away Mexico shot off free kick

Mexico earned a free kick in the 68th minute. El Tri faked a touch on first pass and then put a great ball in play, but Poland’s line was able to knock away a promising chance.

Score remains 0-0 in the 70th minute.


Watch Memo Ochoa deliver an epic save for Mexico

Momentum shifted seven minutes into the second half.

In the 52nd minute, Mexico pushed Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny, who came up with back-to-back stops.

He punched away a shot during a corner and then easily gathered a deeper shot fired off the rebound.

After Poland flipped the field, with the pro-Mexico crowd relatively quiet, Robert Lewandowski nearly slipped past Hector Moreno. They got tangled up in the box and Memo Ochoa did just enough to poke the ball away.

The contact triggered a review. VAR determined Moreno should be hit with a yellow card for pulling Lewandowski’s jersey during the play, and Poland was awarded a penalty kick.

Lewandowski had a chance to score his first World Cup goal, but it was blocked by Ochoa, adding to his status as a World Cup legendary stopper. It is Ochoa’s fifth World Cup appearance, but age doesn’t appear to be an issue for the veteran keeper so far today.

Mexico cleared the deflection, the match remained scoreless in the 58th minute and the crowd roared.

Of course it’s always best to watch huge Mexican plays called in Spanish. “Memooooo!”

And the fans went nuts after the massive save.


No one home early for Poland

Poland earned what could have been a dangerous free kick in the 49th minute, but Mexico’s back line seemed to easily box out the Polish attackers and the ball sailed wide and out of bounds to end the threat.

Robert Lewandowski has the potential to score in such situations, but Mexico has effectively bottled him up this match.

Still 0-0 through 51 minutes.


Second half under way

And we’re off again in the second half, with Mexico and Poland scoreless.

Mexico pushed the tempo in the first half and delivered more precision passing, but all it takes is one smart set piece for Poland to pull ahead.


History made during Mexico World Cup match

The Times’ Kevin Baxter noted the Mexico vs. Poland game made history, with a woman helping officiate a World Cup match.

Baxter reported extensively on what this breakthrough World Cup meant for women in officiating.


Mexico pushes, but El Tri and Poland finish the first half scoreless

Mexico pushed hard for a breakthrough throughout the first half, but Poland and El Tri remain scoreless at halftime.

Mexico dominated possession 62% to 38% and generated six shots, with two of them on goal.

Poland managed just one shot, and it wasn’t on target.

The pressure will be on both clubs to try to score in the second half after a shocker in the earlier Group C match. Saudi Arabia scored the biggest win in that country’s history, upsetting Argentina 2-1 Tuesday morning. With potent Argentina led by Lionel Messi chasing an elusive World Cup victory to cap his elite career, it will be a battle to claim one of two guaranteed spots coming out of the group. Mexico and Poland both need a win and goals to keep pace.


Jorge Sánchez can’t score in the box

Mexico continues to knock on the door.

In the 45th minute, Jorge Sánchez gets in a shot on goal, but the ball is punched over the cross bar.

Mexico was unable to do anything with the ensuing corner kick, and just two minutes of stoppage time remain before the break.


Tata Martino actively directs El Tri from the sideline

If body language means anything, Tata Martino is looking more the part of a competitive manager than he has during the run-up to the World Cup.

He swapped a casual look for black pants, black shirt and blazer and is actively directing the Mexican side.

This differs from his athleisure and pained, frustrated and generally hunched-over look that was a fixture throughout qualifying.

Mexico's coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino stands on the sideline during a World Cup against Poland
Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino stands on the sideline during a World Cup match against Poland at Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday.
(Moises Castillo / Associated Press)

Fans sing ‘México lindo y querido’ as they push El Tri

Mexico fans are doing their best to spark Mexico to a goal.

During a brief lull in the action, they sang the iconic anthem “México Lindo y Querido” and are providing a constant wall of pro-Mexico noise.

The Times’ Jad El Reda is in the venue and reports that El Tri fans have turned this into a home match.


Poland fails to capitalize on free kick

In the 29th minute, Mexico’s Jorge Sánchez was called for a yellow card, and it set up a dangerous Poland free kick.

A deflection led to a Poland throw-in, but a ball pushed forward sailed far from Polish players and was easily gathered by Mexico goalkeeper Memo Ochoa.

Still scoreless in the 31st minute.


Mexico can’t convert two chances

In the 26th minute, Mexico finally was able to build up to a shot off a throw-in.

Hector Herrera floated the ball in the box, and Alexis Vega’s header sailed just wide.

It was followed by another Mexico run in the 28th minute during which a Poland broke up action and Vega’s hand touched the ball.

El Tri is still scoreless, but Mexico fans are roaring and encouraged by the activity.


Mexico and Poland still hunting for good looks at goal

It’s been about 10 minutes of sprinting end to end for both sides, but neither has been able to complete runs and set up shots.

The officials have passed on some early calls on contact, with Robert Lewandowski asking for a foul at the top of the box and getting no whistle in the 22nd minute after Mexico poked the ball away.

The game is still scoreless, but Mexico fans are settling into a steady hum in support of El Tri.


Mexico header sails high as teams remain scoreless

Mexico has been finding space along the right side, setting up a corner kick in the 12th minute.

Héctor Moreno got his head on the ball in the box for a good look, but the ball sailed high.

Still scoreless through 13 minutes.


Early chances for Poland off target

Mexico had a promising run in the fifth minute, but Alexis Vega couldn’t score in the box and the ball tumbled out of bounds to the left of goal.

In the seventh minute, Robert Lewandowski’s header in the box was deflected. An ensuing weak Polish corner was cleared by Chucky Lozano.

We are still scoreless through 10 minutes.


And we’re off ...

Landon Donovan reports the stadium feels like Azteca as Mexico kicks off against Poland, an undeniable advantage for El Tri from a former U.S. soccer star who has faced that intense fan support in the past.

It’s an impressive showing considering this was not an easy World Cup to travel to due to limited fan housing options in Qatar and the negative energy surrounding the team thanks to its difficulty winning ahead of the World Cup.


‘¡Viva México!’ El Tri takes over Qatar

Mexico has struggled throughout qualifying and fans have been calling for coach Tata Martino to be fired, but that hasn’t stopped exuberant El Tri fans from taking over Qatar.

Times en Español reporters Eduard Cauich and Jad El Reda delivered this video of celebrations leading up to the match.

Kevin Baxter reports El Tri fans are roaring pregame at Stadium 974.

And this is what it sounded like when most of the stadium sang the Mexican national anthem.


Veteran Mexico lineup set to take on Poland

Tata Martino’s lineup for Mexico’s opener is set.

El Tri features the second oldest roster at the World Cup and will look for another big tournament from 37-year-old goalkeeper in Memo Ochoa, who likely will be tested by Poland star Robert Lewandowski, the two-time reigning world player of the year.

Ochoa, who was a breakout star during the 2010 South Africa World Cup and has been stead on the international stage, could get a big lift from Chucky Lozano if he can secure an early goal.


Qatar walks tightrope between Arab values and Western norms with World Cup gamble

People gather at a fan event for the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday.
People gather at a fan event for the World Cup in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. Qatar’s rise on the world stage aims to achieve new heights with the World Cup, but can the country’s ambitious plans mesh with its traditional culture?
(Petr David Josek / Associated Press)

DOHA, Qatar — The calm before the storm is over. Now comes the deluge.

After years of anticipation and more than $200 billion in infrastructure spending, the 2022 World Cup will kick off in Qatar on Sunday. Over the following 28 days, more than 1.2 million people will flood the conservative Gulf state, which is smaller than Connecticut and has a population of about 2.9 million, three-fourths that of Los Angeles.

And there’s more than a little concern that flood will overwhelm a country that has had 12 years to prepare and still doesn’t appear ready.

“Qataris themselves are quite apprehensive about what’s coming,” said Michael Quentin Morton, an English author and historian who grew up in Qatar, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. “They [only] have to turn the television on and see what can happen at these big football tournaments to be concerned.”

Read more >>>


A guide to the eight stadiums hosting games at the 2022 World Cup

A view of Lusail Iconic Stadium ahead of the Lusail Super Cup between Zamalek and Al Hilal in September.
A view of Lusail Iconic Stadium ahead of the Lusail Super Cup between Zamalek and Al Hilal in September. Lusail Iconic Stadium is one of eight venues for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
(Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

One stadium looks like a boat, another like a giant Bedouin tent. One was built with 974 shipping containers.

Qatar’s World Cup venues are as spectacular as the tournament they will host. And though the combined price tag for building or refurbishing all eight stadiums was less than what Stan Kroenke paid for SoFi Stadium alone, the cost of construction was enormously high in human terms.

A detailed analysis by the Guardian found the deaths of 37 workers were directly linked to stadium construction, part of a grim toll of more than 6,500 migrant laborers who died between 2011 and 2020, many while helping build World Cup infrastructure. The low cost of stadium construction reflects the even lower cost of labor in Qatar.

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Mexico’s Uriel Antuna never forgets his meteoric soccer rise started with help

Mexico's Uriel Antuna warms up before an international friendly match against Iraq in Spain on Nov. 9.
(Joan Monfort / Associated Press)

DOHA, Qatar — Soccer has taken Uriel Antuna to places he never imagined. To the medal stand at the Tokyo Olympics. To clubs in the Netherlands, England and the U.S. Now to Qatar, where he’ll likely make his World Cup debut Tuesday when Mexico opens group play against Poland.

“Very happy to be achieving a dream that I set for myself from a very young age,” he said in Spanish.

Yet no matter how far he’s roamed and how high he’s climbed, Antuna has never forgotten where he came from and who helped him.

“My parents, my grandparents have always instilled that in me since they were the first people who were with me,” he said.

They weren’t the only ones. If it takes a village to raise a child, it can take considerably more than that to raise a World Cup soccer player. Which is why Antuna makes it a point to go back to the city where he grew up and to Santos Laguna, the Mexican club that gave him his start, to mentor kids who, like him, have a dream but little else in their lives.

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Christian Pulisic’s heroics can’t save U.S. from disappointing World Cup start

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The enduring image of the national team’s failure to qualify for the last World Cup was of Christian Pulisic, his uniform stained with grass and dirt, squatting in the middle of the field with his head in his hand in frustration. As a result, getting the U.S. to Qatar this fall probably meant more to Pulisic than any other player.

“He’s one of the people that really felt the heartbreak back in 2017,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said.

In a World Cup debut Monday that was delayed four years, Pulisic put in a heroic effort only to be frustrated yet again when a late penalty-kick goal allowed Wales to steal two points with a 1-1 draw.

“A little disappointed with how the game played out,” said defender Walker Zimmerman, whose foul in the box led to Gareth Bale‘s goal in the 82nd minute. “Being in a position with less than 15 minutes left to walk away with three points, it feels like we could have deserved a little bit more.”

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Political protests flare in Qatar despite FIFA’s efforts otherwise

Iranian soccer fan holds up sign reading Woman Life Freedom Masha Amini prior to the World Cup group B.
A fan holds up a sign reading “Woman Life Freedom Mahsa Amini” prior to the World Cup match between England and Iran on Monday in Doha, Qatar. Iran has been roiled by street demonstrations since the September death of Amini, a 22-year-old who was detained by the country’s morality police for not wearing her hijab in accordance with government standards.
(Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — FIFA president Gianni Infantino has asked for the focus at the World Cup to remain on soccer. But the game took a backseat to politics again Monday when FIFA threatened to sanction players wearing rainbow-colored armbands in support of the LGBTQ community while Iran’s players refused to sing their country’s national anthem before their opening game with England.

The captains of seven European teams said they intended to wear armbands sporting the heart-shaped logo of the OneLove movement, which promotes inclusion and diversity in soccer and society. UEFA allowed teams to use the armbands in the latest round of Nations League games in September, but the decision to wear them in Qatar, where same-sex relationships are banned, was widely viewed as a form of protest.

As a result, just hours before England kicked off against Iran, becoming the first European team to take the field in Qatar, global soccer’s governing body issued a statement saying players not wearing armbands provided by FIFA would be given a yellow card.

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Breaking down the Mexico vs. Poland World Cup matchup

Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa walks on the field before an international friendly against Iraq.
Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa walks on the field before an international friendly against Iraq in Spain on Nov. 9.
(Joan Monfort / Associated Press)

Group C: Mexico vs. Poland

Where: Stadium 974

Time: 8 a.m. PST

TV: Fox, Telemundo, Peacock

The buzz: Robert Lewandowski, the two-time reigning world player of the year, is on the short list of best players never to make it beyond World Cup group play since Poland got bounced in the first round four years ago.

Poland did no better in the last Euros, failing to win a game. But a victory over Mexico would give it an inside track at the knockout rounds here.

This is also a game El Tri can’t afford to lose and it has the second-oldest team in Qatar, one relying on a 37-year-old goalkeeper in Memo Ochoa, a 36-year-old captain in Andres Guardado and 31-year-old forward in Raúl Jiménez, who has played just 45 minutes since August while dealing with a groin injury.