World Cup Live: Serbia vs. Switzerland and Brazil vs. Cameroon

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DOHA, Qatar — In the end, Brazil’s problem wasn’t so much that Neymar missed his country’s second game at the World Cup. After all, Brazil still had plenty of scoring opportunities, arguably more than any other team in the tournament. But football rules require the ball to actually go into the net to count, and for 82 agonizing and frustrating minutes Brazil’s attacking prowess just couldn’t let that happen.

Richarlison shot wide. Raphinha examined the right side. A goal by Vinícius Júnior was disallowed for offside. Rodrygo came on, and then Bruno Guimaraes and Antony and Gabriel Jesus. Nothing.

Credit…Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

So with an entire nation systematically reducing its supply of fingernails, it was a solid veteran midfielder, Casemiro, who came forward from his deep midfield position and did the job himself. The goal he scored, a cutting shot to the outside of the foot, was special and it was the only one Brazil would score in the 1-0 win against Switzerland. But it was enough to secure a spot in the knockout stages with a game to spare, and for a country whose number one priority is to win – no matter how the job gets done – no one in Brazil was complaining about who scored.

“Of course we miss a player like Neymar,” said national coach Tite. “The team loses a lot without him. But we also have other players who can get the job done, as we saw today.”

Switzerland will also have to do well with the result. It had smothered and frustrated Brazil all night, and they can still progress to the knockout rounds with a win or a draw against Serbia in the last game of the group stage. But it failed to produce a single shot on target on Monday, and perhaps it was lucky to be in a scoreless game so close to the end.

The Swiss had even fallen behind at one point due to a controlled finish by Vinícius Júnior behind the Swiss back line in the 64th minute. But Brazil was offside leading up to the goal, so the video assistant referee called it back. The game remained scoreless, but not for lack of trying.

Tite was already actively looking for solutions at that time. 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 forwards came in and started chasing.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy – we had to be patient,” said Casemiro. “Our first goal was to move forward, and we achieved that.”

Casemiro’s goal, when it finally came, was one to remember. He was so quick off his foot and so well placed that the Swiss goalkeeper could only see him pass like a man admiring a high-speed train from the platform. But it did the job, which was more than Brazil’s forwards 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.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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