Brazil advance to round of 16
DOHA, Qatar (AP):
Struggling and unconvincing without Neymar on the field, Brazil still played well enough to secure a spot in the next round of the World Cup.
The five-time champions overcame the absence of their injured star to beat Switzerland 1-0 with a late goal yesterday and make it to the round of 16 with a match to spare in Group G.
“Of course we miss a player like Neymar,” Brazil coach Tite said. “The team loses a lot without him. But we also have other players who can get the job done, as we saw it today.”
Casemiro got the only goal in the 83rd minute of a game in which Brazil had difficulties creating scoring chances without their main playmaker. The defensive midfielder scored with a volley into the far corner, using the outside of his right foot for a shot that deflected slightly off defender Manuel Akanji.
“We knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. We had to be patient,” Casemiro said. “Out first objective was to advance and we achieved that.”
Neymar stayed at the team’s hotel to treat a right ankle injury sustained in the opener in Qatar. He posted an Instagram story showing him watching the match on television while undergoing treatment on his foot.
“Casemiro has been the best defensive midfielder in the world for a long time,” Neymar wrote on Twitter.
Team doctors have not yet given a timetable for Neymar’s return – or said if he will return at all. Vinícius Júnior said Neymar also had a fever yesterday though the team had not officially said anything about it.
The win gave Brazil six points from two matches, leaving Switzerland with three. Serbia and Cameroon, which drew 3-3 earlier yesterday, have one point each.
Switzerland need a win in the last match against Serbia to guarantee their spot in the next stage. A draw may be enough depending on the match between Brazil and Cameroon.
Yesterday’s result extended Brazil’s unbeaten run in the group stage to 17 matches, with 14 wins and three draws. They have lost only one of their last 29 group games, with the last defeat coming against Norway in 1998 in France.
Switzerland have lost only two of their last 13 group matches at the World Cup.
“I can’t really blame the team, it did a good job for quite some time,” Switzerland coach Murat Yakin said through a translator. “I don’t think it’s a disappointment. We have a lot of good takeaways here. The next game is something we have control over.”
It was an even match early on, with both teams trying to control the game but not creating many significant chances. Without Neymar, Brazil struggled to get near Switzerland’s area until Casemiro’s goal. The assists came from Vinícius Junios and Rodrygo, the Real Madrid players who until recent had Casemiro as their teammate. Casemiro now plays for Manchester United.