Brazil 1, Switzerland 0: Casemiro finds the goal Brazil were looking for
DOHA, Qatar — In the end, Brazil’s problem wasn’t so much that Neymar missed the country’s second game at the World Cup. Brazil still had plenty of scoring opportunities, after all, arguably more than any other team in the tournament. But football rules require the ball to actually go into the net to count, and through 82 agonizing and frustrating minutes, Brazil’s many attacking talents failed to make it happen.
Richarlison sent a shot wide. Raphinha probed the right. Vinícius Júnior had a goal disallowed for offside. Rodrygo came on, as did Bruno Guimaraes and Antony and Gabriel Jesus. Nothing.
So with an entire nation methodically reducing the supply of nails, it was solid veteran midfielder Casemiro who strolled up from his position deep in midfield and did the job himself. The goal he delivered, a slicing off-foot shot, was special, and it was the only one Brazil scored in their 1-0 win against Switzerland. But it was enough to book a place in the knockout stages with a game to spare, and for a country whose first priority is to win – no matter how the job is done – nobody in Brazil was complaining about who had scored it.
“Of course we miss a player like Neymar,” Brazil coach Tite said. – The team loses a lot without him. But we also have other players who can get the job done, as we saw today.”
Switzerland must also do well with the result. It had suffocated and frustrated Brazil all night and it could still progress to the knockout rounds with a win or a draw against Serbia in its final group game. But it didn’t produce a single shot on target on Monday and was perhaps lucky to have been in a goalless game so close to the end.
The Swiss had even fallen behind at one point, to a composed finish by Vinícius Júnior behind the Swiss backline in the 64th minute. But Brazil had been offside in the build-up to the goal, so the video assistant referee called it back. The game remained goalless, but not for lack of trying.
Tite was already actively looking for solutions then. Rodrygo had just replaced Fred, the midfielder who had taken the place of the injured Neymar (ankle) in Brazil’s line-up, and in the next 10 minutes three more attackers came and went in pursuit.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy – we had to be patient,” Casemiro said. “Our first goal was to advance and we achieved that.”
Casemiro’s goal, when it finally came, was one to remember. It came off his feet so quickly and was so well placed that the Swiss keeper could only watch it pass like a man admiring a bullet train from the platform. But it did the job, which was more than Brazil’s striker could say on Monday.
Neymar, who missed Monday’s game with a swollen ankle suffered in Brazil’s opener, will be back soon enough. When he returns, he will be lucky to score a goal as good as the one that almost didn’t come on Monday.