Ochoa the shield guards vital craft

Ochoa the shield guards vital craft

In a sport that waits for goals, depends on goals, is vitalised by goals, Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa against Brazil was a breathtakingly beautiful spoilsport. He blocked, he stopped, he blunted, he invested his entire being in the idea of goal-lessness. Rarely has the no-goal been so satisfying.

In the 25th minute, as Ochoa took off on a flight of his own invention, he was a nobody. When he landed, he was somebody. Neymar, rising high like a man bouncing off a trampoline, headed from close. Behind the net, Brazilians rose as if to applaud to goal, when a diving Ochoa interrupted their pleasure.

He flew, his hand deflected the ball just as it was on the goal-line. The only thing that landed in the goal was him.

He saved then with his knees, then with his hip and body, then with his hands from point-blank range.

Had Horatius, the Roman who defended the bridge, been alive, he may have applauded this return of the one-man army.

By day's end, Ochoa's own myths began. A headline clarified that he did not have six fingers, he was compared to an octopus and a tweet in honour of him simply pictured a brick wall. And yet no compliment did justice to a man who this day resembled a part-time trapeze artist who teaches Superman how to catch bullets while mastering the concepts of geometry.

In a planet that over-subscribes to the notion of the star, Ochoa - out of contract after a stint with France's AC Ajaccio - spoke for football's vast unknown talents. This Cup is their stage also, but only for some will it be their time.

It requires luck, audacity and timing and this defined him: to lift against Brazil, with a planet watching, is to change a life in a few frenetic seconds.

Ochoa also spoke for his species, for goalkeepers are part of a team yet their own unique tribe.

They are mostly stationary observers in a fluid game, lonely often in a crowded sport and advised by white lines on where it's safe to roam.

Size is their signature and it is a useful asset beyond reach. As David Seaman apparently once said: "People come up and remind you of your mistakes, but it helps being 6ft 4in and 15 ½ stone."

The goalkeeper separates himself through dress, wearing gloves yet also blame. A striker can miss, a midfielder can mis-pass, but he is disallowed any imperfection.

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