Can one man make a team? The answer to the question must be equivocal – yes and no.
It was unquestionably yes for Diego Maradona with his electric solos for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. And certainly, just one man can make a team better.
While Brazil is a team of stars, there’s only one sun – Neymar – around which the other 10 planets revolve.
With the forward not there to draw in the opposition and their fouls towards him, the Brazilians failed to gain that extra inch for most of the game and needed another World Cup-worthy strike – this time from Casemiro – for a hard-fought 1-0 win over Switzerland at Stadium 974.
In a stacked-up container park near the fashionable hub of Corniche, Brazil started half-heartedly as if trying to refigure the way to play which, for so long, had Neymar leading the process.
Tite, to compensate for the overall role the missing hero plays, changed his formation to 4-4-2, dropping Vinicius Junior to the midfield to rely on his speed to run with the ball and prise open the Swiss defence.
But the two men upfront – Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta – were often left wandering alone.
Vinicius, who looked the most dangerous, but could not pick the target, failed to get the weight behind his stab on goal after Raphinha’s swinging cross came his way in the 27th minute.
The Swiss, too, threatened on the counter – now and then – and Ruben Vargas with his back to Alisson’s goal, trapped and turned, but the experienced Thiago Silva was quick to spot his trick and rushed in with the crucial block.
Brazil was not its usual self and Alisson, much like he has done a few times at Liverpool, fiddled with the ball and almost suffered as Breel Embolo caught him in the act.
It was Vinicius who seemed to have soothed the Brazilian nerves after he ran beyond the lunging challenge of Nico Elvedi with a wee touch of his right foot, and rounded Yann Sommer to slot home in the 65th minute.
The Brazilian supporters – in yellow tux and headgear – were ready to start the party but VAR played spoilsport.
Finally, Casemiro, troubled by the inconstancies around, made a rare foray inside the box and he promptly scored with a thundering right footer that travelled past a diving Sommer with just seven minutes of regulation time left.
Brazil came searching for a few more and some last-gasp defending stopped the Swiss from conceding more.
The win and the qualification to the knockouts were secured, but Brazil still missed the radiance of its injured Helios.