KEIR RADNEDGE in DOHA —- No Neymar. No idea. Not much, anyway. Now that favourites Brazil are assured of entry into the Round of 16 the moment may be appropriate to record that this World Cup will be remembered for many reasons but high quality of football will not be among them.

Gianni Infantino had already gone on record as hailing the “greatest World Cup” after the manner of disgraced predecessor Sepp Blatter but the current FIFA president’s hands-on insight is only the six years he has been in the job.

The 2022 finals have brought a number of entertaining shocks and several harum-scarum goal chases but class has been notable for its absence. Brazil’s inability to put a smile on the ball’s face in their 1-0 win over Switzerland says it all.

Rare sight: Brazil team picture without Neymar

Ultimately they scrambled through to victory in their second Group F outing largely because the Swiss were even more creatively incapable. Casemiro owned the honour of the goal on an assist from Vinicus Jr, his former team-mate at Real Madrid. Relief for Brazil and also for the organisers’ need for the big names to progress to paint the best gloss on the occasion.

Group matches can often be awkward, forgettable affairs and this one ranks in that anonymous collection.

Even its most intriguing issue was a negative one, concerning Brazil’s ability to live up to the usual hype without the injured Neymar to imagine, irritate and create all his usual distractive firestorms. The answer is that they can cope as far as it goes but will not want to do so in the knockout stage.

Single save

The first half saw Brazil unable to make life seriously difficult for the tournament-hardened Yann Sommer in Switzerland’s goal. He made one excellent reflex save from Vinicius Junior in the 20th minute after Raphinha skimmed over an awkward cross from the right but that was all.

Brazil tried to move smoothly through gears but the engine never reached top-gear pitch. Switzerland concentrated industriously on sealing the gaps and Breel Embolo, up front, tried to occupy Brazil’s defenders but without causing any great distress.

In the second half Switzerland began to exert modest pressure of their own but without causing Alisson serious problems.

Brazil thought they had scored in the 63rd minute when Casemiro slid the ball wide for Vinicius Junior to evade one last Swiss tackle and score but the goal was ruled out for offside back in the middle of the pitch.


At this point Brazil a touch of desperation seemed to enter the Brazilian game but that was only positive because it made them more unpredictable. Vinicius set up Richarlison but the Swiss quickly shut him down. That was end of the action for the two-goal hero from Brazil’s opening win; he and the anonymous Raphinha were replaced by a Premier League double act in Antony and Gabriel Jesus.

The eventual breathrough arrived in the 83rd minute. Vinicus was again the provider and Casemiro the scorer with a glorious swipe into the roof of the helpless Sommer’s net.

Job done but Brazil can play much better and will hope fervently to do so.