Doha, November 22: Robert Lewandowski’s second-half penalty attempt was stopped 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 miss for the national team. Poland’s all-time top scorer with 76 goals remains without a World Cup goal.
Lewandowski was awarded the penalty following a VAR review after Hector Moreno grabbed his shirt and pulled him down.
Ochoa, playing in his fifth World Cup, came out screaming in delight after his stoppage, sending the crowd into chants of “Memo!”
As Mexico dominated the ball, Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saved all three shots on goal from El Tri.
The scoreless draw was a good result for Argentina, who were upset by Saudi Arabia 2-1 in a previous Group C game. The Argentinians, led by Lionel Messi, were widely seen as the favorites to qualify.
Mexico have reached the round of 16 at the last seven World Cups, but the “quinto partido”, or fifth game, has eluded the team.
El Tri’s best performance at the World Cup was reaching the quarter-finals in 1970 and 1986 as hosts.
This was Poland’s second consecutive appearance at the World Cup. 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 it over the crossbar.
It was Ochoa’s refusal of Lewandowski, who moved from Bayern Munich to Barcelona this season and has 13 goals in 14 appearances, that put the stadium filled with mostly green shirts at their feet.
It wasn’t the first time Ochoa had stood out on football’s biggest stage: in 2014, he made six saves in a scoreless draw with Brazil, who were among the favorites as tournament host. He even denied Brazilian striker Neymar on a header and later called it the ‘match of a lifetime’.
El Tri has been plagued by critics ahead of the World Cup.
Mexico’s all-time top scorer Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez has been dropped from Qatar’s squad by coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino. Hernandez, who currently plays for LA Galaxy, has played in the last three World Cups but hasn’t appeared with the national team since 2019.
Martino has also been criticized for including Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez, who is out with a groin injury. Substituted for Henty Martin to start, Jimenez came on as a second-half substitute.
The game was played at Stadium 974, named after the country code of Qatar. The stadium was built from old shipping containers and will eventually be dismantled, Qatar’s solution to “white elephant” stadiums that have gone largely unused after other World Cups.
There was also history made. Stephanie Frappart of France has become the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match, serving as the fourth official.
Frappart joins Japan’s Yamashita Yoshimi and Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga among the 36 referees selected for the tournament.