Brazil overcame Neymar’s absence to beat Switzerland 1-0 to progress to the last 16 of the World Cup
Brazil advance to World Cup with 1-0 win over SwitzerlandBy TALES AZZONIAP Sports WriterThe Associated PressDOHA, Qatar
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Fatiguing and unconvincing without Neymar on the field, Brazil nonetheless played well enough to secure a place in the next round of the World Cup.
The five-time champions overcame the absence of their injured star by beating Switzerland 1-0 with a late goal on Monday to progress to the round of 16 with a game to spare in Group G.
“Obviously we lack a player like Neymar,” said Brazil coach Tite. “The team loses a lot without him. But we also have other players who can get the job done, as we saw today.”
Defensive midfielder Casemiro scored the only goal in the 83rd minute of a match in which Brazil struggled to create chances without their main playmaker. The Real Madrid player scored with a goal into the far corner, using the outside of his right foot for a shot that narrowly deflected defender Manuel Akanji.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We had to be patient,” said Casemiro. “Our first objective was to advance and we succeeded.”
Neymar remained in the team hotel to recover from a right ankle injury sustained in the opening match in Qatar. He posted an Instagram story that showed him watching the game on television while undergoing foot treatment.
“Casemiro was the best defensive midfielder in the world for a long time”, Neymar he wrote on Twitter.
Team doctors have not yet given a timetable for Neymar’s return, nor have they said whether he will return at all.
“We know Neymar is a great player and that he makes the difference,” said Brazilian defender Marquinhos. “In difficult moments he takes responsibility and creates chances, but we have shown once again that we have quality players to make up for his absence.”
The win gave Brazil six points from two games, leaving Switzerland with three. Serbia and Cameroon, who drew 3-3 on Monday, have one point each.
Switzerland, who have not had a shot on goal, need a win in their last game against Serbia to secure their place in the next stage. A draw could be enough depending on the match between Brazil and Cameroon.
The result extended Brazil’s unbeaten run in the group stage to 17 games, with 14 wins and three draws. They have lost just one of their last 29 group games, most recently against Norway in 1998 in France.
Switzerland had lost just two of their last 13 group stage matches at the World Cup.
“I really can’t blame the team, they’ve been doing 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 take out here. The next game is something we have control over.”
It was an even game early on, with both teams trying to control the game but not creating many significant chances. Without Neymar, Brazil struggled to get close to the Swiss area until Casemiro’s goal. The assists came from Vinícius Junios and Rodrygo, the Real Madrid players who until recently had Casemiro as a teammate. Casemiro now plays for Manchester United.
Tite replaced Neymar with Casemiro’s Man United team-mate Fred, freeing up Lucas Paquetá to play closer to the attack. Éder Militão, who plays as a centre-back at Real Madrid, came on for Danilo in the right-back position, replacing the veteran Dani Alves.
With Paquetá failing to create much for Brazil, Tite started the second half with Rodrygo in the squad. Richarlison, who scored both of Brazil’s goals in the opener, was not as effective and was substituted in the second half.
Vinícius Júnior thought he had given Brazil the lead with a shot from inside the area following a 64th-minute pass from Casemiro, but video examination established that there was offside in the build-up. Few had noticed until the call from the VAR to Stadium 974 was announced.
The lights dimmed for a few seconds before halftime at the 974 Stadium, causing play to be briefly halted. Brazil were about to take a corner kick when it suddenly began to get dark in the provisional stadium.