Brazil admit toiling at World Cup without injured Neymar
DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Brazil midfielder Bruno Guimaraes admitted the World Cup favourites lacked some of their usual verve after they needed a late Casemiro strike to beat Switzerland and secure a place in the last 16.
The five-time World Cup winners knew a second straight win in Group G on Monday would clinch their place in the knockout phase with a game to spare.
But it looked like they would have to settle for a draw until Manchester United’s Casemiro, not known for his goalscoring, popped up with a deflected strike seven minutes from time to seal a 1-0 win.
“It was a really difficult game and a 0-0 suited them, but the most important thing is that we are through,” said Newcastle’s Guimaraes, who came on as a second-half substitute at Doha’s Stadium 974.
He replaced Fred, who was in the starting line-up in the absence of Neymar, sidelined with an ankle injury suffered in Brazil’s opening 2-0 win over Serbia.
“Neymar is such a player, a real star. What team wouldn’t miss him?” he asked.
Despite the absence of Neymar, matchwinner Casemiro believes Brazil are a more complete team now than four years ago, when they crashed out of the World Cup in Russia in the quarter-finals.
“Four years have gone by and there are new players,” said the former Real Madrid star, who was one of the few survivors from a draw with Switzerland in the 2018 group stage.
Tite’s side are yet to concede a goal in Qatar, having let in just five goals in 17 games in South American qualifying.
“Our defenders are more experienced and that is another match with a clean sheet, but it’s not just about Alisson or the back four, it starts from Richarlison up front,” Casemiro said.
“I think we have a wider range of options.”