No Neymar? No problem! “Invisible” Casemiro takes centre stage as Brazil edge Switzerland in the World Cup
Brazil have confirmed their place in the World Cup knockouts after edging Switzerland 1-0 in a tense Group G showdown.
Tite was forced to navigate the tie without an injured Neymar, and it was an unlikely source who produced the moment of the match in Manchester United anchorman Casemiro. The 30-year-old Paulistano unleashed a curling effort with the outside of his boot late into the game, and the collective relief of a nation was palpable.
It was a frustrating match for the five-time winners, who were largely kept at bay as Switzerland set up in a low block and congested the space. The game plan from Murat Yakin was clear: suffocate the creative flair of the Selecao. For the most part it worked a treat as Granit Xhaka and Co set to work disrupting the opposition’s patterns of play, but at the death, the South Americans broke the Swiss resolve with brilliant attacking execution.
There was deflection off Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji to add another depth of flavour to the finish, but the one-touch build-up was peak Brazil, a nation who have defined their very being with creative improvisation, captivating flair and footballing beauty. This was another one for the sticker album.
Brazil would ultimately hold out for the win, keeping a clean sheet in the process which, in essence, is the main function of Casemiro. An elegant ball destroyer and procurer of possession rather than a regular goal-getter, Casemiro took on both responsibilities this evening.
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The finish and clean sheet have guaranteed Brazil a place in the last 16. And his performance came on the day former World Cup winner Gilberto Silva described him as the “key” to any success Brazil have this winter.
In his column for BBC Sport, Gilberto wrote: “My job when Brazil won the 2002 World Cup was to be invisible on the pitch – if I did it right, it made things easier for the players in front of me, as well as for myself.
“It is the same situation now for Casemiro, the defensive midfielder who is at the heart of this Brazil team trying to end our 20-year wait to win it again. He has a great responsibility in my old position.
“Casemiro’s intelligence holds the key.”
Not only has Gilberto likened Casemiro to himself from 20 years ago, but the ex-Real Madrid midfielder has seemingly gone one better. As well as being “invisible” in Brazil’s first third, he was anything but at the other end as he turned protagonist to alleviate Neymar’s absence and grab Brazil’s decisive goal.
It was a brilliant individual effort.
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