The drum beat told the story of the thumping weight of expectation which this Brazil side bears. It was relentless and metronomic from a sea of yellow, punctuated by the occasional, thunderous bellow of the team’s name which seemed as if it would blow the lid off this place.
For more than 80 minutes on Monday night, the players looked as if that cacophony was ringing in their ears.
Richarlison, the focus of all their endeavours, rubbed his face vigorously on several occasions as chances came his way and went – as if to shake himself from the struggle and reach a higher level.
The goal, from Casemiro, was an object of beauty when it came. Not the purest – deflecting off the backside of Manuel Akanji – but straight out of the streets of Rio, for all that.
Casemiro scored a late thunderbolt as Brazil beat Switzerland 1-0 at Stadium 974 on Sunday
The Manchester United star breached Switzerland’s defence with a stunner in the 83rd minute
A pass rolled by Vinicius Junior off the outside of his boot – looking away as he did so, pure instinct telling him where to place it – and then the Manchester United man’s crushing volley, also off the outstep.
A love-in then ensued in the stadium’s press conference room with coach Tite, adored as a father figure by a Brazilian media which lapped up his homilies on the power of collectivism. It helps the general effect that he speaks so well, describing how this team could live without the missing Neymar, who has ankle ligament damage.
Tite reflected: ‘He is a player who in a special moment dribbles past players and you think, “What happened here?” We do miss him but other players are getting there, too.’
There certainly wasn’t much ‘what happened there?’ about Brazil on this occasion. Casemiro’s emergence as a goal-scoring threat is one of the themes of Brazil’s first two games here but no one could disguise that this was an ordinary performance against a second-rate European team.
Talisman Neymar is out for the rest of the group stage after injuring his ankle against Serbia
When the lights briefly went out on the stadium just before half-time, someone seemed to be making a statement about what Brazil had brought until then.
Raphinha occasionally ignited into life on the right. No width, no precision. All smoke, no fire. It was certainly a tough lock to pick on Tuesday night.
The Swiss conceded just two goals in eight games in qualifying for Qatar, though there were chances to take here. But Richarlison, the focal point at the top of the team, could not find the anticipation and timing to take command.
A ball bent in from Vinicius just before the hour mark delivered the best of his opportunities but he stretched for it in vain.
It had been the same when Lucas Paqueta had accelerated down the left to cross for him. And when Fred pushed a pass into the central channels after some neat geometrical passing in the inside-left channel, Richarlison got the ball caught in his feet and ran it out of play.
Vinicius Jr was denied by Yann Sommer with what proved to be the best chance in the first half
The big moment in the first half came when a ball arced in from the right by Raphinha reached Vinicius, who seemed to have an eternity to track its flight and pace. But he scuffed a shot which Yann Sommer dealt with comfortably.
The revolving door of substitutes revealed a side struggling for combinations. Paqueta left at half-time. Fred did not last an hour.
Bruno Guimaraes’ arrival for the Manchester United midfielder did make a difference. It was he who initiated a move which saw Vinicius accelerate past the outstretched leg of Akanji and lift the ball beyond Sommer, only to be denied by offside on VAR.
Brazil were not helped by the departure of the Juventus left back Alex Sandro, who felt something in his adductor and was substituted, Tite said. That will be a concern, despite them reaching the last-16 with this win.
Switzerland showed no attacking ambition and did not achieve a shot on goal. To start a game with Breel Embolo, such a threat against some sides at last summer’s Euros, and not have him try to turn around Brazil’s 38-year-old captain Thiago Silva and test his pace, seemed curious.
The Real Madrid forward then found the net in the 64th minute before VAR disallowed the goal
When Brazil lost to Belgium in the 2018 quarter-finals, Casemiro played no part and what both he and Tite wanted to stress was the development of the team in the intervening four years.
‘Intelligent question,’ said Tite, when the issue of the strength of his bench came up. Sitting on it were Manchester United’s Antony, one of the most expensive footballers in history, Gabriel Jesus, Arsenal’s livewire striker, and a winger with the dynamism to suggest he is a rising star, in Gabriel Martinelli. Some personnel.
Consider, by contrast, some of the starting XI in the last big World Cup game Neymar did not feature in – that night of 7-1 devastation at German hands in 2014 – Fred, Bernard, Oscar and Hulk.
‘We have more players to choose from,’ Casemiro said after the win. ‘We have the possibility to change the way we play. So the options are far greater than in 2018.’
He could afford to smile because of that 83rd-minute moment of genius and a goal which had the players dancing in front of the yellow sea, many clutching replica World Cups, their beat going on and on, deep into the night.
Fred started the match in Neymar’s absence but was later hooked off by Tite in the second half
Relive all of the updates, match action and key moments by reading Sportsmail’s live blog for the World Cup Group G clash between Brazil and Switzerland, written by Ben Willcocks.
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