Casemiro's 83rd minute winner was enough to book Brazil's spot in the knockout stages of the 2022 World Cup thanks to a 1-0 win over Switzerland at the Stadium 974 on Monday. But for so much of the match, Brazil looked like they were missing the creativity offered by their absent star man Neymar as they continually tried to break down Switzerland's resolute defence only to come away empty handed.
Vinicius Junior thought he had opened the scoring in the 63rd minute, only to have VAR intervene and rule the effort out due to Richarlison's offside position earlier in the move. Eventually Casemiro broke the deadlock late on to ensure Brazil are through to the knockouts, while Switzerland can still make the last 16 as they face Serbia in their final group stage match.
1. Neymar-less Brazil lacked inspiration
There's been a lot of talk at this World Cup about some pool stage matches becoming games of chess: both teams waiting for an opening, prodding away, but eventually it takes one bold move to bring a game alive. There are the catalysts here in Qatar who can do that, but Brazil are missing their chief creative force. Neymar has provided that spark for Brazil in the past, but with their star forward injured, they lacked the ability for so much of the match to prise open the well-organised Swiss defence.
The Selecao looked void of inspiration in the first half -- a 45 minutes which resembled the opening half of their first match against Serbia -- but the introduction of Rodrygo at the break gave them some spark to bring the game to life. But still they found it almightily hard to break down the Switzerland back four -- with Granit Xhaka and Robin Freuler also doing a brilliant job to play their part in a midfield tussle.
They tried going wide to Vinicius and Raphinha -- but found those alleys largely blocked -- and rarely profited through the middle. Prior to Casemiro's 83rd minute winner, they only mustered three decent chances. The first was Vinicius tame shot at Yann Sommer in the first half, as he was unable to convert unmarked from 10 yards out. Then came Richarlison in the second half failing to get his toe on the end of a Vinicius cross, while it was the Real Madrid man to be frustrated in the 63rd minute as he thought he'd opened the scoring, only to have the effort chalked off due to Richarlison's offside position earlier in the move.