World Cup 2022 – Brazil 1-0 Switzerland: Casemiro goal books last-16 spot despite absence of Neymar

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Casemiro celebrates after giving Brazil the lead against Switzerland
Casemiro celebrates after giving Brazil the lead against Switzerland

He was described before the match as Brazil’s key “invisible man”, by full-time Casemiro was being lauded as the “best midfielder in the world”.

Brazil’s World Cup match against Switzerland looked to be heading for a dour, goalless draw but the Manchester United player had other ideas.

With seven minutes remaining and some fans heading for the exits, Casemiro fired an unstoppable, angled drive into the far corner of the net to leave the remaining supporters roaring in delight and fire his side into the last 16 with a game to spare.

The goal also delighted Brazil greats Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and Cafu, who were sitting together watching the game inside the stadium.

“I scored but is important to have assisted the whole team,” said the midfielder, who was player of the match.

“When we win, we win together, when we lose, we lose together. It doesn’t change my mindset.

“This is a group, the Brazil national team as players, we must play as a group. That is most important to get the title.”

Casemiro the fireman

It was a sea of green and gold on the metro and outside the stadium before kick-off, with fans adorning Brazil shirts, scarves and flags on their way to the match.

Supporters piled into Stadium 974 in their numbers, vastly outnumbering their Swiss counterparts and although there were plenty of ‘Neymar 10’ shirts to be seen, not a single ‘Casemiro 5’ top was in sight.

Writing for BBC Sport, former Brazil midfielder Gilberto Silva, part of the last team to win the World Cup 20 years ago, said Casemiro has a “great responsibility” with his defensive duties so that those with the attacking talents can flourish.

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Silva said Casemiro’s “intelligence” held the key, and that being “smart” as an “invisible” holding midfielder on the pitch made things easier for those in front of him.

Ultimately, Casemiro had to do it all himself, making more interceptions (four) than any player on the pitch. No player had more than his two shots, while he ended up scoring his first World Cup goal.

A lifeless contest exploded when the United player’s arrowed drive hit the back of the net and he joined his team-mates at the final whistle as they jumped and sang in delight in front of their jubilant following.

Victory sealed progression to the knockout stage and Neymar tweeted

afterwards: “Casemiro has been the best midfielder in the world for a long time.”

Asked about his opinion, Tite replied with a smile and said: “As a habit, I always respect opinions. I usually don’t comment but I will allow myself to do so today.

“I agree.”

Brazil assistant Cesar Sampaio, who played in the 1998 World Cup final defeat by France, added: “Casemiro manages in front of the back four and acts as the first screen.

“He can also pass from mid-distances, which makes a key difference in that position.”

Casemiro said: “It is very clear that my very first objective is to support the team and bring equilibrium. I need to support the players at the back and put out fires wherever they may be.

“When you are playing against a defensive opponent, we must feel what is happening. My first duty is defensive but if there is an opportunity to take the kick on goal, that can be important too.”

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Things ‘very different’ from four years ago

After nine seasons at Real Madrid, Casemiro moved to Manchester United in August for £60m to fill the gaping hole in the centre of their midfield.

A serial winner who has lifted almost every trophy going, including five Champions League titles, La Liga on three occasions and the 2019 Copa America. But global football’s biggest prize remains missing from his CV.

Four years ago, Brazil were knocked out of the competition at the quarter-final stage by Belgium, a match in which Casemiro did not feature, with Fernandinho preferred in the centre of the park.

But Brazil are favourites to lift the trophy for the first time since 2002 and asked what is different now, Casemiro said: “I believe there are many things.

“Four years have gone by, there are new players and this year we have a wide range of options. We have more players to choose from without changing the team.

“We can change the way we play, so there is no doubt that the options are much greater than 2018.”

Tite added: “I am going to take a cue from what Casemiro said: There is a wide range of options and there is four years of preparation.

“These young athletes have been able to develop. Who won today? The process and development of the team and that is the cherry on top of the cake.”

By: Kwaku Oduro

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