HOUSTON, Texas – GK Guillermo Ochoa was the man of the hour for Mexico following its 5-4 penalty shootout win over Costa Rica in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Following 120 minutes of football with the score still locked at 1-1, matters were decided from the penalty spot and Ochoa proved decisive, saving Keysher Fuller’s attempt to seal Mexico’s passage to the semifinals.
In speaking with Concacaf.com post-match, Ochoa detailed his keys to penalty shootout success.
“It’s a pressure that is in play more for the forwards, many times they are the ones who are more obligated and are closer to committing errors than a goalkeeper, so you try to play with those emotions which are difficult to control,” said Ochoa. “As a goalkeeper I try to stop a penalty and help the team. The adrenalin is at a maximum, the stress at a maximum, and when things go well, we are really happy.”
Ochoa also came through with a massive stop in extra time, denying Jonathan McDonald with a sensational save.
“It wasn’t easy because we had much more time with the ball. We attacked more. Costa Rica waited for us to then counterattack, and that as a goalkeeper is very difficult when you are not in action a lot. You spend a lot of time without touching the ball and one has to be ready when it’s time to intervene.
“It was a critical, difficult play and more so in extra time when there was a just a little left before penalties. Fortunately, I was fast and alert, saved well with my left hand,” said Ochoa.
Ochoa also shared his secrets when studying a player who is about to take a penalty.
“You try to read his body, to know and anticipate where he might shoot the penalty by his physical actions, by his facial expressions, by his eyes, by his head. Those are details that you look for in a moment of stress, in a one-on-one duel of looks, of breathing. It’s a moment of great tension for the shooter and from all that, you try to get an idea of where he might shoot, what his options are from his profile and that helps you choose a side,” said Ochoa.
Coincidentally, 10 years ago in the 2009 Gold Cup semifinal Ochoa was the man in goal when Mexico defeated the Ticos 5-3 in a shootout. Mexico would go on to win that title, and Ochoa is hopeful that history repeats itself 10 years later.
“Hopefully, it’s a good omen. Costa Rica is a tough opponent. Today was a great challenge for the Mexican national team, a national team with a lot of young players, with a lot of talent that is having its first experiences in the national team. Overcoming this is going to help us grow before the final and hopefully this will keep us going emotionally,” concluded Ochoa.