Brazil secure qualification with a dramatic late win

Casemiro’s late shot meant Brazil won their second game against a lackluster Swiss team.

Kaka, Cafu, Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo watched over from the stands brooding that there weren’t a lot of goals. Magicians of the game waiting for the new generation to join them in the cathedral of legends. You could feel from the sea of yellow in the stadium support that Swiss’s fate was sealed in stone before kickoff.

Brazil are the best team in the world and they showed why they were just that. For the second game in a row, Brazil’s opponents not only blanked in front of goal but didn’t even get a single try on target.

If there was one word that could summarize the game it was pressing, high-pressing for two words and relentless high pressing for three. Even without Neymar to lead them, Brazil showed strength in depth and coordination. They should still be disappointed that this wasn’t a convincing, high scoring game, despite all their chances.  

The first one came when Paqueta flicked a clever ball around the corner and down the inside-right channel. Richarlison tore into the box and cut back for Vinicius Jr, but didn’t find his man. The Swiss breathe a sigh of relief. 

And then, Raphinha swung a cross in from a deep position on the right. He found Vinicius Jr, racing in from the left, in space vacated by Widmer. Vinicius didn’t connect properly, side-footing the ball weakly towards the bottom right, but Sommer was still required to palm around the post.

 A few minutes later, Raphinha cut in from the right and sends a long-range belter straight down Sommer’s throat. He hit that with some force, but the keeper didn’t have to move.

The only chance for Switzerland – if you would even call it that – came right after the second half. Xhaka sends Rieder into acres of space down the right. He entered the box and crossed low for Reider, who can’t force home at the near post. The ball breaks to Sow who had a try. Vinicius Jr slid in to block.

Having had that chance it was Brazil back to their dominant selves. Vinicius Jr curled a lovely cross in from the left. The ball flew down the corridor of uncertainty and was nearly converted at the far post, but Richarlison’s studs weren’t long enough. Resulting in a miss by centimetres. 

And an even more clear opportunity was ruled out for offside shortly after. Three Swiss midfielders missed a ball rolling through the centre circle. Rodrygo stole in and laid off to Casemiro, who immediately released Vinicius Jr down the left. Widmer came sliding in, but couldn’t stop the young Brazilian, who took a touch to enter the box before steering cutely across Sommer and into the bottom right. Wonderful goal but offside still. 

Brazil continued knocking at the door, and finally, it swung open. And this one was finally counting. Vinicius Jr rolled a cute pass down the inside-left channel. Casemiro, just inside the box, swivelled and hit a first-time riser towards the top right. Sommer, feet planted, had no chance! The ball whistled into the corner!

And with that, they secure qualifying. Did they play like potential World Cup winners? Well, no. But also yes. No, because they were pretty stodgy for the most part until flinging the kitchen sink (as well as all the attackers on their bench) at Switzerland in desperation towards the end. Yes, because while they weren’t anywhere near their best, they still scored a fine winner through Casemiro, and were an offside decision away from another lovely goal for Vinicius Jr.

And it’s a hoary old trope for a reason: getting results when you’re not on top form is what champions do. Accordingly, they celebrate with their fans, while Switzerland – who fought hard but lacked a cutting edge – traipse off in disappointment. They’ll need to beat Serbia next week to guarantee qualification for the last 16.

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