Doha (Qatar): Casemiro struck his first World Cup goal with seven minutes remaining in the match to break Switzerland resistance and book Brazil’s place in the Round of 16 here on Monday.
Brazil didn’t alight on any rhythm in a stuffy opening half, their only attempts coming from Vinicius Junior, whose scruffy contact in front of goal allowed Yann Sommer to save, and Raphinha, who struck a hard hit effort into Sommer’s midriff.
Richarlison, the two-goal hero against Serbia on Thursday, needed one shoe size bigger to connect with Vinicius Junior’s cute outside-of-the-boot cross 11 minutes after half-time. And there was more frustration for Brazil when it came to light Richarlison was offside in the build up to Vinicius Junior slotting beyond Sommer after 65 minutes.
Coach Tite’s team pressed for the goal to seal their progress, however, and Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo combined to feed Casemiro for a fabulous first-time penalty-box strike beyond Sommer.
Sommer tipped over a late Rodrygo effort and the same Brazil player was denied by Manuel Akanji’s excellent block. One goal was all Brazil required, however, against a Switzerland team that didn’t muster a shot on target.
For the second time in the match, the entire Brazil team and a healthy proportion of substitutes congregated by the side of the field to join in an unbridled celebration.
On this occasion, however, there was no intervention from a party-pooping official. Vinicius Junior’s 65th-minute ‘goal’ was rightly ruled out for offside against Richarlison earlier in the same phase of play. And belief must have been growing in the Switzerland ranks over the prospect of claiming a draw against mighty Brazil for the second straight World Cup when we remained locked at 0-0 with seven minutes remaining.
Enter Casemiro – holding midfielder Casemiro, remember – stealthily arriving in the penalty area to collect a flick from former Real Madrid teammate Rodrygo. The finish represented a lesson in technique, Casemiro positioned his knee over the ball to arrow a half-volley across goalkeeper Sommer and into the top corner.
Without the 30-year-old’s strike, Brazil would have potentially needed something from their final Group H meeting with Cameroon to secure progress to the last 16. As it is, the South Americans confirmed their second-round presence at the earliest opportunity.
Brazil are the first team not to face a shot on target in their opening two World Cup matches since eventual champions France in 1998.