Brazil strolled through Doha’s Souq Waqif to warm up for the game. Although they were unharmed and their wallets were generally unharmed, Switzerland didn’t prove to be as kind as the market traders in Qatar and for a while here threatened to strip Tite’s team of their invincibility cloak.
The pre-tournament favourites advanced to the knockout rounds thanks to Casemiro’s beautiful 83rd-minute half-volley, but much of the action highlighted the reason why the pre-match attention had been focused on a man who would never take the field.
Because of his far-right political views and enormous ego, Neymar splits opinion in Brazil, but a well-drilled Switzerland showed ample proof of his significance. It would not be an overstatement to suggest that his absence due to an ankle injury was felt profoundly.
Initially, Brazil’s coach tried to make up for the loss of his attacking talisman by moving Lucas Paquetá from midfield into the front three, with Fred joining Casemiro and his Manchester United teammate further back. To say that Fred’s impact was minor is not being too harsh. Switzerland has the best defence, according to Tite. And Neymar is missed.
Switzerland led by Murat Yakin arrived at Stadium 974 a little bit later than expected due to a minor traffic incident. As traffic near the ground slowed to a crawl, it appears that the driver of their team bus allowed his attention to wander and ended up colliding into the back of the police escort car in front. The car following the coach at the time of the collision was unable to brake in time to avoid contributing to the pileup.
Thankfully, no one was hurt, and to Brazil’s dismay, Switzerland’s driver’s superbly sustained concentration stood in stark contrast to its own. The tone was set when Silvan Widmer, the right back, abruptly stopped an obviously offended Vincius Jnior in his tracks. Such unassuming Swiss interruptions would develop into a pattern.
Brazil’s one- and two-touch cameos of sharp, slick, imaginative, and occasionally gloriously improvised football were lovely, but their final ball lacked incision against deep-seated opponents. Yakin’s organized, well-structured team was ready to play on the counter-attack when Casemiro fortunately avoided getting booked for catching Breel Embolo late from behind.
Neymar seemed to be becoming increasingly valuable to Brazil with each passing minute. Notably, it had been close to thirty minutes before Yann Sommer produced a save.
When that opportunity did present itself, courtesy of Raphinha’s left-footed, right-wing cross, Switzerland’s goalkeeper proved up to the task by parrying a slightly scuffed half-volley from the unmarked Vincius Jnior.
The fact that it was Brazil’s first attempt on goal shows how difficult it is for them to turn possession into opportunities. Sommer could not have anticipated being so uninvolved. Was history going to repeat itself, and were two nations prepared to accomplish a statistical trifecta after drawing both of their previous World Cup meetings—in 1950 and 2018—?
Paquetá was replaced by Rodrygo of Real Madrid, a forward who many Brazilian supporters felt should have initially filled in for Neymar, and did not return for the second half. However, Switzerland came close to scoring when Widmer’s cross led in Vincius Jnior denying Djibril Sow’s goal-bound attempt before the soon to be influential Rodrygo had chance to get going.
The time for change had come, so Tite made the appropriate adjustments to his midfield, substituting Newcastle’s Bruno Guimares for Fred. Bruno’s passing and movement immediately improved the mood of the heavily Brazil-supporting crowd and posed questions to Switzerland that they were occasionally unable to respond to.
The sequence of events that resulted in Vincius Jnior receiving Casemiro’s pass, overcoming Nico Elvedi’s challenge, and squeezing the ball just inside a post with Sommer beaten was set in motion by a pass from Guimares, although one that was somewhat overhit.
The entire Brazilian bench rushed to the sidelines to celebrate, but a VAR review ended the celebration when it found that Richarlison, who substituted for Casemiro, was offside. Richarlison, who was crucial to Switzerland’s victory against Serbia the previous week, was relegated to the sidelines by a Swiss defence that was further fortified by the reassuring central midfield presence of Granit Xhaka.
Brazil, though, progressively strained Yakin’s defensive elastic as the game went on. When Casemiro received a pass from Rodrygo, he put his right foot on the ball and sent a half-volley curving towards the goal, leaving Sommer powerless and misplaced. Sommer may have been fooled by the slightest of deflections from Manuel Akanji.
The post Switzerland’s resistance is broken by Casemiro, propelling Brazil into the round of 16. appeared first on OUR INDIA.