With everything to play for and a huge chance to open up space on Argentina following its shock loss to Saudi Arabia in Group C, Mexico and Poland could not find the back of the net in a second-consecutive scoreless draw — following Denmark and Tunisia — at the 2022 World Cup Tuesday.
Poland’s superstar striker Robert Lewandowski’s wait for a first-ever World Cup goal should have ended when he won a penalty in the 57th minute, which would have given the Poles an unlikely and unexpected lead, but he was denied by veteran Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa, named to his fifth World Cup with El Tri.
For Mexico manager Tata Martino, the overarching question remains despite his side being the better one against Poland: Where will the goals come from?
El Tri had 49% of possession compared to Poland’s 32% (other 19% being contested) and launched 13 attempts toward goal. But only a small fraction actually bothered keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Mexico knocked on the door in the fifth minute when Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano forced a turnover in the Polish half, streaked down the right wing, and sent a blistering cross to the far post for Alexis Vega. But the winger couldn’t get a good enough piece of the difficult volley. If he had, El Tri would have had the lead.
Vega came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the 26th minute when he outjumped Matty Cash on the left side of goal and sent a looping header just wide of the opposite post — an attempt that seemed to have greatly worried Polish keeper Szczesny.
The Polish keeper was plenty busy throughout the night, though his first hour mostly featured him leaving his post to punch or catch threatening crosses from Mexico.
Yet it was Poland that should have gone ahead in the 57th minute after Hector Moreno pulled the shirt and hauled down Lewandowski in the box for a penalty, called after VAR.
His shot was low and to the right, but Ochoa got down and pushed it away to keep the legendary Pole’s drought for a World Cup goal intact.
Poland has missed each of its last three penalties in World Cup play (1978, 2002, 2022) while Ochoa became the first Mexican keeper on record to save a penalty in the competition’s history.
OCHOA BLOCKS LEWANDOWSKI'S PENALTY FOR MEXICO 😱🇲🇽 pic.twitter.com/j9qO1Sodyt
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 22, 2022
The incredible save wrenched momentum back to Mexico, who carved out another brilliant chance in the 64th minute — a shot by Edson Alvarez saw Henry Martin redirect it with his head in the middle of the box. It nearly wrong-footed Szczesny, who had to change direction to punch the ball away.
Mexico star striker Raul Jimenez, who has been battling injury leading into the World Cup, got the call in the 71st minute to potentially give El Tri the boost up front it was searching for, to no avail.
The two sides are now tied for second in Group C behind Saudi Arabia with Argentina sitting at the bottom.