BRAZIL spent four days insisting they had enough superstars to not to notice the absence of Neymar – but no-one thought that the hero would be Casemiro.
Yet that was exactly the case, when the midfielder best known for his defending than the dynamite in his boots produced an absolute rocket to send the favourites into the last 16.
GettyCasemiro netted a great goal to secure Brazil’s place in the Round of 16[/caption]
APThe Man Utd man proved the unlikely hero[/caption]
Casemiro’s last goal for his country came in a qualifier against Ecuador nearly two years ago. He had five in 65 games going into this Group G clash.
But never will he hit a ball with more power and precision than the 83rd minute rocket which arrowed past Yann Sommer to snatch a win most had all but given up on.
Without their talisman Brazil had been laboured and quite frankly flat for long, long periods.
Yes, they had the ball in the net from Vinicius Junior, only to be denied by bad luck as much as bad judgement.
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But by their magnificent standards they had been poor. Proof in fact, that while Tite tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes by saying they could cope without Neymar, the truth was far different.
The Brazil coach had better pray his medical team work their magic on his striker’s damaged right ankle ligaments by the time of their last 16 game, or the wait for a sixth World Cup may go on a little longer.
And when Fred is the replacement, it does leave you questioning whether there should be a ‘Mad’ in front of Tite’s usual nickname of Professor.
Mind you, at least it is two wins from two, at least they are through as table toppers and at least they can’t play as badly as this again. Surely not – and not get away with it anyway.
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They didn’t look like they were going to against the Swiss for such long, long periods either.
Vinicius Jnr thought he was was going to be the man who won it for them when he skipped past Nico Elvedi and buried it past Yann Sommer after Casemiro’s through ball on 64 minutes.
But Richarlison, the two-goal hero of their opening win over Serbia, was half a yard offside before he got the faintest of touches to Casemiro’s pass, to deflect it away from Manuel Akanji.
Having said that, even if he hadn’t clipped the ball, he would have been interfering with play so VAR official Drew Fischer was right to tell ref Ivan Barton to disallow it.
That aside, VIni Jnr had come closest to a winner, when he arrived at the far post to meet Raphinha’s delicious 27th minute cross.
But his connection was more shin than boot, and although Sommer had to make a save, he was always going to push it behind.
That looked as close as we were going to get to a winner – but then Vini turned provider with the cutest of flicks.
And Casemiro spun and rocketed a flying half volley into the far corner to snatch it. The Swiss clocked at last… and finally reason for Brazil to go nuts.