Robert Lewandowski’s penalty attempt in the second half was saved by Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, leaving Poland to settle for a 0-0 draw at the World Cup on Tuesday.
It was Lewandowski’s first missed penalty for the national team. Poland’s all-time top scorer with 76 goals remains without a World Cup goal.
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Lewandowski was awarded the penalty after a VAR review after Hector Moreno grabbed his shirt and pulled it down. Ochoa, who was playing in his fifth World Cup, came out screaming after his stop, causing the crowd to shout “Memo!”
While Mexico dominated possession, Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny deflected all three of El Tri’s shots on target.
The scoreless draw was a good result for Argentina, who had been beaten 2-1 by Saudi Arabia in an earlier Group C game. The Argentines, led by Lionel Messi, were widely regarded as the favorites to go through.
Mexico has made it to the knockout rounds of the last seven World Cups, but the ‘quinto partido’, or fifth match, has eluded the team. El Tri’s best performance in the World Cup was reaching the quarter-finals in 1970 and 1986 as host.
Poland made its second consecutive World Cup appearance. The team was eliminated in the group stage in 2018.
Jorge Sanchez had a good chance for Mexico in the 44th minute, but Szczesny, who plays for Juventus, pushed him over the crossbar.
It was Ochoa’s denial of Lewandowski, who moved from Bayern Munich to Barcelona this season and scored 13 goals in 14 appearances, which brought the mostly green jersey filled stadium to its feet.
It wasn’t the first time Ochoa had made a big splash on football’s biggest stage: in 2014, he made six saves in a scoreless draw against Brazil, who were one of the favorites to host the tournament. He even denied Brazil striker Neymar after a header, calling it the ‘game of a lifetime’ afterwards.
El Tri is dogged by criticism on his way to the World Cup.
Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, was left off the Qatar squad by coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Hernandez, who currently plays for LA Galaxy, has played in the last three World Cups but has not appeared with the national team since 2019.
Martino was also criticized for including Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez, who is struggling with a groin injury. Replaced by Henty Martin to start, Jimenez came on as a second half substitute.
The match was played at 974 Stadium, named after Qatar’s country code. Built from old shipping containers, the stadium will eventually be dismantled – Qatar’s solution to the “white elephant” stadiums that have gone largely unused from other World Cups.
History was also made. France’s Stephanie Frappart became the first woman to officiate a men’s World Cup match, serving as the fourth official.
Frappart joins the 36 referees selected for the tournament, along with Japan’s Yamashita Yoshimi and Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga.
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