Casemiro is frequently to credit for the defensive success in Brazilian victories, but it took him taking care of the goalscoring as well to overcome an otherwise stunted Brazilian attack against a side set on making Brazil break them down.
With Monday’s late 1-0 victory over Switzerland, they’re the first team to ever go 17 consecutive matches without a group-stage defeat in the World Cup and, more importantly, are joining France by heading to the knockout rounds of the World Cup they’ve been favoured to win since before a ball was touched.
The Seleção spent much of the night trying to find themselves – and a goal – perhaps in part because they were without the injured Neymar, but also because of the state of the group and the reality of their opponents. Switzerland entered on three points and have a history of causing quality opponents trouble, and that was very much the case here. A point would have done them well, and it nearly did.
Brazil’s first chance came to Vinícius Júnior on a back-post run off an inswinging cross from the right by Raphinha in the 27th minute, but the attempt came off his leg rather than his foot and things ended scoreless in the first half.
That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise in this tournament – the 16th scoreless first half we’ve seen – or for Brazil. It was their seventh first half in their last nine World Cup matches without a goal while they’ve only conceded in one of their last seven. They managed two shots on target in the first 45 against Switzerland and Serbia with 0.34 and 0.53 xG respectively, but they’ve allowed even less with neither opponent managing a first-half shot on target for a combined 0.05 xG. Among teams to have played two matches, that’s unsurprisingly the lowest at the tournament.
That carried through the second half, making Brazil the first team since France in 1998 to not allow a shot on target through their first two matches:
Tite changed things at half-time with Lucas Paquetá giving way for Rodrygo, who didn’t come on until the 75th against Serbia. And 12 minutes later, he made another midfield change with Fred coming off for Bruno Guimarães, so it was clear Tite was no more impressed with the Brazilian midfield than the rest of us.
It seemed they’d broken through shortly after the hour mark, but Vinícius Júnior’s goal was disallowed by an offside call on Richarlison checking back to attempt to make a play on the ball earlier in the sequence.
And then the goal arrived 20 minutes later on a combination not from perhaps the winger-forward pair you’d expect but from two of the midfielders who spend the second half trying to figure things out with Casemiro’s 83rd-minute strike coming via an assist from former Real Madrid team-mate Rodrygo.
Aside from Vinícius Júnior, the Brazilian front line was absent from the team’s shot-ending attacking sequences:
For Switzerland, it was a stereotypically Swiss performance with over 170 minutes without conceding to start the tournament. They applied some pressure for a period in the first 20 minutes of the second half, but it didn’t result in anything that tested Alisson.
This win marks 14 straight knockout qualifications for Brazil, but there’s still potentially some work to do to make it 11 straight World Cup groups won. The likelihood of that happening, however, stands at 99.2% with Cameroon waiting on Matchday 3. Switzerland’s chances of progressing now stand at 59.8% with Serbia still very much a part of Group G (36.4%) but needing a win.