DOHA, Qatar — Brazil manager Tite said the team missed Neymar in their 1-0 victory over Switzerland. but agreed with the injured star that match-winner Casemiro is the best defensive midfielder in the world as the veteran led his country into the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Casemiro scored the winner in the 83rd minute as they followed their 2-0 victory over Serbia with a hard fought win over Switzerland.
– Hamilton: Brazil miss Neymar but advance with Casemiro center stage
It was Brazil’s first game since Neymar picked up an ankle injury against Serbia — with ESPN sources believing it will likely keep him out of Brazil’s third match against Cameroon — but it was Manchester United midfielder Casemiro who provided the necessary inspiration to guide them through to the round of 16.
Casemiro’s performance caught the eye of Neymar, who wasn’t at the game due to a flu outbreak in the Brazil camp. After the match finished, the injured star tweeted: “Casemiro has been the best defensive midfielder in the world for a long time.”
Tite was asked whether he agreed with Neymar’s view, and answered: “As a habit I always respect opinions, and don’t comment on them, but I will allow myself to do that today. I agree [with Neymar].”
Tite also hailed Casemiro’s versatility in midfield as he inspired Brazil to victory on Monday at Stadium 974.
“This is a player who works as a central player and when a game appears, he’s the surprise element who appears from the back,” Tite said.
The Brazil manager was also asked whether the team was missing the injured Neymar. “[Without Neymar] the system will be maintained. [How was the] First match without Neymar? You chose Casemiro as Man of the Match.
“Neymar has a different skillset. He is a player in a magical moment and can dribble past one and another — he has that skill. Other players are getting to Neymar’s level and I hope they get there. So we miss Neymar, we do miss him, he has a big creative power, he’s very offensive, we miss him. But there other athletes we saw at the beginning who took the opportunity.”
Defender Marquinhos agreed that the team missed Neymar, but had the strength in depth to cope with his absence. “We know that Neymar is a great player and that he makes a difference,” Marquinhos said after the match. “In difficult moments he takes on the responsibility and creates the opportunities, but we showed once again that we have quality players to make up for his absence.”
Casemiro was part of the Brazil squad that lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals of the 2018 World Cup — that defeat due to suspension — and said he believes the 2022 team is in a stronger spot.
“Four years have gone by, there are new players,” Casemiro said. “This year we have a wider range of options, we have more players to choose from. Without changing the team, we can change the way we play. If we substitute players we have more options. The options are much greater than those in 2018.
“There are tons of younger players that are being able to handle themselves. The defenders are more experienced and this was another game where we conceded no goals. That all starts in front with Richarlison, but the options are much greater this time around than 2018.”
Brazil coach Tite agrees with Neymar that Casemiro world’s best defensive midfielder