Without Neymar, Casemiro takes the national team out of the struggle and scores the winning goal over Switzerland


To take advantage of the increase in the number of players called up, Tite filled the Brazilian team with strikers. Nine were called up for the World Cup. But when the situation really got tough in Qatar, it was defensive midfielder Casemiro, 30, who resolved it.

He hit cross kick, from inside the area, as if he were a number 9, in the 37th minute of the second half. It was the move that classified Brazil in advance for the round of 16 of the World Cup and defined the 1-0 over Switzerland, this Monday (28), at stadium 974, in Doha.

With six points, the team only needs a draw against Cameroon, next Friday (2), to finish in first place in Group G.

It was only Casemiro’s sixth goal in 67 games with the yellow shirt. And the most important.

The team lived for four days with the reminder that, by the numbers, it is no longer as dependent on Neymar as before. Tite would have the offensive pieces to make up for the absence of one of the best players in the world. But, given the well-armed defensive system of the opponent and without his number 10, Brazil suffered.

Neymar didn’t even go with the delegation to the stadium. He stayed at the hotel where the delegation is staying. He is recovering from ligament damage to his right ankle. The initial prediction was that he would return only in the round of 16. With qualification assured before the last round, the wait for his return is more relaxed.

The result serves as revenge for the 2018 World Cup, in Russia, when the same Switzerland stopped Brazil in the debut and ended up in a 1-1 draw. Victory over Cameroon would represent the first World Cup since 2006 in which the team ends the group stage with 100% utilization.

The team had even more difficulties in the first 45 minutes than the ones they faced in the first round, against Serbia – when they also didn’t score, but won 2-0 with goals in the final stage.

Facing a closed rival, with ten players behind the ball, he didn’t find space. The best chance came from a high launch with a submission from Vinicius Junior. Sommer defended.

If Raphinha had been ineffective in the first half of the debut, Vinicius had been an escape valve, taking advantage of the marking. Against Switzerland, both were equally well marked.

Part of the opening half was spent with the Brazilian midfielders moving the ball back and forth, waiting for the chance for a more incisive pass. That’s when the weight of Neymar’s absence became clear. Without the injured striker, the selection becomes more predictable, and the opponent can focus more on nullifying the plays by the wings.

Switzerland’s strategy boiled down to trying to find an exit at speed and finding Embolo in front. The striker born in Cameroon, scorer of the winning goal in the first game against his native country, is capable of locking the mark, is strong and knows how to do the job of pivot. But he had no opportunity to put it into practice.

Tired of what he saw on the field, Tite sent Rodrygo to warm up a minute before the break. The most anticipated bet was Fred’s departure. But the chosen one was Lucas Paquetá, precisely who was supposed to do Neymar’s job on the pitch. Then Bruno Guimarães entered to give even more offensive strength to the team.

Everything seemed to be resolved at 18, with a beautiful goal by Vinicius Junior, but the VAR (video referee) annulled the bid because of Richarlison’s impediment.

Over time, Switzerland found spaces to counterattack. Threatened with ball reversals, especially for Widmer. The draw began to look like a reality that would bother Tite a lot. He knows he would see the ghost of the need to have Neymar against Cameroon.

Someone would have to come along to save the selection. Casemiro, a midfielder who became a defensive midfielder at Real Madrid, doesn’t seem averse to change. He left the comfort zone of the Spanish capital to defend a team in transition in England, Manchester United. He believed it was a club that needed him more.

As Brazil needed this Friday. He came up with a shot that would make Neymar proud to get the team out of the choke in Doha.

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