Brazil follows France into the last 16. The rest of the world play catch up.
Casemiro engineered the money shots. An exhilarating half volley, off the laces and into the Swiss net via Manuel Akanju’s rear end, the stadium screens flashed up legends of Brazil World Cups past as the guttural roars of São Paulo favelas came to Doha.
We knew what they sounded like, hearing them twice before Casemiro’s 83rd minute winner, as an earlier finish by Vinicius Junior’s was disallowed. Twice.
Vinicius proved the vital cog in securing safe passage to the knockout round, where Portugal, Ghana or even Uruguay guarantees an unmissable contest. But Brazil are always watchable, whoever they meet.
Their solitary goal came from a triangle that was never completed. Vinicius, sensational off the left, pushed a pass to Rodrygo as Casemiro eased from his holding midfield slot in what seemed like a decoy run that would present the spinning Rodrygo with a return ball.
An instant icon at Manchester United, the 30-year-old shifted his feet, punching an iconic goal to sit alongside World Cup gems by Dunga and Branco.
The entire world received a quadruple gift as the camera picked out a low-key Ronaldo Nazário and Roberto Carlos celebration before the faces of Kaká and Cafu looked something closer to the eye-popping emotion of Maradona at his last World Cups.
Privately, the class of 2002 will be unmoved by this display. Nor did it fit in with an unforgettable date: November 28th, 2022, known forever more as “Goals Monday.” If Cameroon, Serbia, South Korea and Ghana burst the damn then Brazil were supposed to deliver a biblical flood.
How could it not be so?
Eleven goals were netted before the five-time champions entered this makeshift arena in Ras Abu Aboud but that number only ticked to 12 when the strikers of Portugal and Uruguay began the night shift in Lusail.
Still, Brazil are out the gate, as their slow rhythm wraps Group G in a neat package. Switzerland will follow them as runners-up by drawing with Serbia on Friday, unless Cameroon beats Brazil by two goals.
Less jogo bonito, more Brazilian conservatism reinforces the importance of The Injured One. Not a whisper of protest was heard as Neymar’s swollen ankle meant zero goals were dedicated to the country’s recently deposed president Jair Bolsonaro. As the Amazon rainforest literally draws breath, The Injured One uttered a sentence that leaves a grey cloud above Tite’s camp.
“When we win,” said Casemiro, “we all win together and when we lose, we all lose together.”
“Goals Monday” has a lovely ring to it, yet an hour came and went, and twice Richarlison was a whisker shy of toe-poking his third of the tournament after low balls into the six-yard box by Lucas Paqueta and Vinicius.
The Swiss wall appeared to crumble on 64 minutes when two 50-50 tackles spilt possession for Casemiro to send Vinicius bearing down on Yann Sommer’s goal. His curling finish was exquisite and the goal appeared to stand when Salvadorean referee Ivan Barton touched his ear piece and pointed to halfway.
The swaying sea of yellow exploded in relief but the party lasted about 15 seconds. Barton was indicating that Richarlison had ran from an offside position to make a challenge.
Nobody panicked as Tite’s reinforcements arrived; Gabriel Jesus of Arsenal, new Manchester United winger Anthony and Real Madrid’s Rodrygo.
It proved enough following a wasteful opening 45 minutes via the mansions of Madrid, north London and Barcelona as Brazil’s attack struggled to unlock the Swiss front door, which was reinforced by German oak. Five of Murat Yakin’s starting XI ply their trade in the Bundesliga, with three more in the Premier League, including Manchester City’s sturdy stopper Manuel Akanji, who pointed at the ball after emptying Richarlison over the sideline.
Akanji and Nico Elvedi knew the assignment. The Swiss centre halves would need to replicate Harry Maguire against the USA, Paul McGrath in New Jersey and Fabio Cannavaro at the 2006 World Cup, for Switzerland to escape with a point.
As the Swiss line held, the overwhelmingly Brazilian crowd zipped through a repertoire of drum solos and samba songs, descending into a cacophony of wolf whistles whenever Granit Xhaka dared to venture anywhere near Alisson’s goal.
And then, on the stroke of half-time, there was a dimness in the stadium as a gazillion light bulbs were temporarily extinguished. It was fixed quickly as an army of official ants whizzed from A to B speaking low into microphones.
No panic, nor was Marquinhos ruffled when Silvan Widmer sneaked around the defence; the Paris Saint Germain defender cutting out the moment with a full body slide.