A sparkless Brazilian side without the injured Neymar needed a late strike from Casemiro to beat Switzerland 1-0 on Monday as the five-time winners secured their place in the last 16 of the World Cup with one game to spare. The Brazilians were frustrated by a stubborn Swiss side at Doha’s Stadium 974 and looked set to settle for a point after a second-half Vinicius Junior strike was ruled out for offside following a VAR check. But then, with seven minutes left, Bruno Guimaraes shot the ball through to Casemiro just inside the box and the Manchester United midfielder’s volley flew into the net with the help of a slight but significant deflection from Manuel Akanji.
Tite’s side are only the second team to qualify for the last 16 after France and the only side other than the holders to have won both group matches in Qatar so far.
With six points, they will be tempted to rest players ahead of their final Group G match against Cameroon on Friday when a draw secures them top spot.
Switzerland, meanwhile, failed to shoot on target, but remained on track to qualify as well. The 3-3 draw between Serbia and Cameroon earlier meant that a win over the Serbs will see Murat Yakin’s side through and a draw could also be enough. They have made a habit of making it to at least the first knockout round at major tournaments, while Brazil are in Qatar to win a sixth World Cup and nothing less will suffice.
The Selecao would always miss Neymar, although coach Tite has said he is confident the Paris Saint-Germain superstar will recover from his ankle injury to play a part in the final again.
After Richarlison’s class made all the difference in their opening win over Serbia, it was a reminder for the Brazilians of the strength in depth in the European game.
Four years ago, before being knocked out by Belgium in the quarter-finals, they were also held out by Switzerland in the group stage.
Fred fills in for Neymar
Yakin’s side therefore had no reason to fear Brazil, who put Manchester United midfielder Fred in their line-up instead of Neymar. As a result, they were fielded in a 4-3-3 formation, with Fred and Lucas Paqueta on either side of Casemiro, while Eder Militao – usually a centre-back for Real Madrid – replaced the injured Danilo on the right. back.
There were only flashes of what Brazil could do in a frustrating first half, with the loudest cheers from the crowds of yellow and green supporters in the stands as the big screen showed two-time World Cup winner Ronaldo in the stands.
Vinicius had the best chance of the opening period when he headed a cross from Raphinha onto the back post in the 27th minute, but Yann Sommer tapped the Real Madrid winger’s effort behind.
Switzerland missed one of their main creative sparks in Xherdan Shaqiri who was missing due to an obvious femur problem and was replaced by Fabian Rieder.
That Tite was unhappy with Brazil’s first-half performance was evident when he hooked Paqueta at half-time and sent off Rodrygo.
The 21-year-old was involved as Brazil believed they had taken the lead just after the hour mark, giving him possession in midfield before Casemiro released Vinicius to run on and beat Sommer.
But the festivities were cut short as the goal was ruled out by VAR for offside against Richarlison. Tite turned to his bench and sent in more fresh forwards in Gabriel Jesus and Antony, but the goal eventually came from one of the least likely sources in Casemiro and Brazil secured a deserved win.
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