World Cup: Portugal beat Uruguay; Bruno Fernandes scores twice

World Cup: Portugal beat Uruguay; Bruno Fernandes scores twice

DOHA, Qatar — Brazil’s problem, in the end, wasn’t so much that Neymar missed his country’s second game at the World Cup. Brazil still had plenty of scoring opportunities, after all, probably more than any other team in the tournament. But football rules require the ball to actually go into the net for it to count, and for 82 agonizing and frustrating minutes, Brazil’s attacking talent simply couldn’t make it happen.

Richarlison sent a shot wide. Raphinha pierced the right side. Vinícius Júnior had a goal disallowed for offside. Rodrigo entered, followed by Bruno Guimaraes, Antony and Gabriel Jesus. Nothing.

Credit…Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press

So, with an entire nation methodically whittling away at their nails, it was the stalwart veteran midfielder, Casemiro, who emerged from his position deep in midfield and did the job himself. The goal he scored, an offside kick, was special, and it was the only one Brazil scored in their 1-0 win against Switzerland. But it was enough to see them through to the knockout stages with a game to spare, and for a country whose first priority is winning – however the job gets done – nobody in Brazil complained about who scored it.

“Of course we miss a player like Neymar,” Brazil coach Tite said. “The team loses a lot without him. But we have other players who can do the job, as we saw today.”

And Switzerland will have to accept the result. He suffocated and frustrated Brazil all night, and he can still advance to the knockout rounds with a win or a draw against Serbia in the last game of the group stage. But he didn’t produce a single shot on goal on Monday, and maybe it was lucky we were in a goalless game so close to the end.

The Swiss even fell behind at one point, after Vinícius Júnior finished behind the Swiss back line in the 64th minute. But Brazil were offside in the build-up to the goal, so the video assistant referee called it back. The game remained scoreless, but not for lack of trying.

Tite was already actively looking for solutions. Rodrigo had just replaced Fredo, the midfielder who had taken the place of the injured Neymar (ankle) in the Brazilian line-up, and in the next 10 minutes, three more attackers joined in and went on the hunt.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy – we had to be patient,” Casemiro said. “Our first goal was to advance, and we achieved that.”

Casemiro’s goal, when it finally came, was memorable. He was so quick off his feet and so well placed, that the Swiss goalkeeper could only watch it go by like a man admiring a train of bullets from the platform. But it got the job done, which is more than Brazil’s forwards could say on Monday.

Neymar, who missed Monday’s game with a swollen ankle suffered in Brazil’s opening game, is set to return soon. When he returns, he will be lucky to score as good a goal as the one that nearly missed on Monday.

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