De Futebol Thoughts from the 2018 World Cup

The 2018 World Cup is in the books. France is the champion. No one expected France to win the whole enchilada.

The French did.

This team flew under the radar. Everyone expected Brasil, Germany, Argentina, Spain and even Mexico to win it. Oh, how wrong the so-called pundits were.

The American press were building up the great pretender Mexico. After the Mexican win over Germany The USA press expected Mexico to make it to at least the quarterfinals.

Not so fast bucko, Brasil stood in the way and won with a strong 2-0 win.

Brasil lost to Belgium 2-0 in the quarterfinals.

Argentina barely made it out of the group stage. Thus, Argentinos earned the right to battle France in the round of sixteen.

In a matter of ten minutes in the second half France turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-1 advantage.

France won 4-3 however the final score was not the true reflection of how the French blew doors off of Argentina in that deadly eleven minute span to grab the match by the neck and choke the life out of a helpless Argentina squad.

The biggest surprise was Germany losing two matches in the group stage and thus bombed out and this quick exit shocked the Futebol world.

Japan almost made Belgium eat their own lunch in the round of sixteen. Belgium didn’t quit and scored three second half goals to win 3-2.

Belgium and France hooked up in the semifinals. The difference in the match was France’s lighten quick speed that led to the only goal in the match a header by Samuel Umtiti for the one nil win.

England came out of nowhere to earn a spot in the semifinals. Three Lions were the third youngest club in the World Cup. Nigeria was the youngest. France was the second youngest team assembled.

England lost a heart breaker to Croatia 2-1 in the semifinals. This devastating loss came on the heels of a thrilling 4-3 PK shootout win over Columbia the quarterfinals.

The two shockers of the 2018 World Cup were Russia making it to the quarterfinals. Russia defeated Spain 4-3 in a PK shootout. Spain crashed and burned out of the 2018 World Cup.

The other huge surprise was Croatia making to the finals against France.

The Croatians claimed Denmark, Russia and England on the way to the finals before losing to a superior French side 4-2.

Thus, in the end this 2018 World Cup was full of surprises however the quality of play was below par compared to other World Cups.

The cool thing about this World Cup the favorites wore the choke collar.

The Dogs won.

De Futebol Belgium dominates Brasil 2-1! Belgium and France hook up in the Semifinals

Brasil crashed and burned out of the World Cup. Belgium took it to Brasil winning 2-1 to advance to the semifinals where they will duke it out with France.

The Daily Mail:” It was a picture of devastation at the end: Neymar down on his haunches and Fernandinho flat on his back, staring into the black night sky after their nation’s third quarter final loss in four World Cups.

What Brazil discovered last night is that all the old assurances about football supremacy have gone. Belgium, a nation of 11 million people, have developed the technical and tactical capacity to beat Brazil, a nation of 207 million.

They out-thought and out-played them for 75 minutes of quite stunning counter-attacking football from which Tite’s side could not find a way back, despite two gilt-edged chances in a devastating finish of their own.

There will be an understandable sense of South American injustice today. As the Belgians tired in the last 15 minutes, Brazil seemed justified in their demands for a penalty after Jesus nutmegged Vertonghen and seemed to be clattered by Kompany. VAR ruled that the ball had already run out of play, though it was in play at the moment of Kompany’s initial contact.

But Belgium did enough. Their golden generation, whose ascent to the higher plateau has been long awaited, delivered at last. And on a night which enhances Roberto Martinez’s hugely, their tactics were smarter, surprising Brazil for a first half which saw the game put out of their reach.

Martinez switched Romelu Lukaku to the right of the attacking line and created space to deploy de Bruyne as a withdrawn striker, driving forward between the midfield and defensive lines. Though the usual back three also became a four as soon as they fell out of possession, Belgium took the bold risk of keeping two men up.

‘I think that when you play Brazil, you have to get a tactical advantage,’ Martinez said last night. ‘It would be too easy to hope that you bring your game and win the football game. We had to be brave, tactically.’

Brazil contributed to their own fate, too. The suspension of Casemiro – the granite-like presence in front of the Brazilian defence – had always seemed beforehand to create a chink of light for the Belgians but no-one imagined quite how much.

Defensively, they were fragile. The pace of de Bruyne, with Lukaku and, gradually, Hazard, blew a hole through heart of their side.

There was early good fortune for Belgium. Nacer Chadli’s inswinging corner glanced off the top of Vincent Kompany’s head and was diverted in off the Manchester City midfielder’s shoulder.

But it was as they looked to draw level that Brazil looked vulnerable. They left space behind and Belgium had them precisely where they wanted. Lukaku’s contribution had been erratic for the first half hour but gained possession in front of his own penalty area, stormed beyond Fernandinho and drove a ball out right to De Bruyne.

Marcelo allowed him the Manchester City player a criminal amount of time to stop, assess and and take aim, which he did despatched the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

‘I think we switched things up, tactically speaking,’ de Bruyne reflected. ‘Brazil didn’t know what they had to do.’ Marouane Fellaini added steel in a monumental display at the back of the Belgium midfeild and Jan Vertonghen contributed to Belgium’s fierce defensive resolve.

For Brazil, there was no way through. Neymar was a marginal presence. Gabriel Jesus skewed a headed chance he was presented with. Coutinho was reduced to taking aim from distance.

Tite went all out for salvation and to turn back the weight of history. Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino was sent into a 4-2-4 formation and the side did begin find a way back.

After the penalty appeal, Jesus made way for Douglas Costa on the hour and he was dangerous. Thibaut Courtois’ leap to his right to save was part of a monumental display from him.

For pure, individual attacking talent, Belgium continued to deliver what generations have come to expect of Brazil. In the blink of an eye, they cleared two thirds of the field and almost scored again. Chadli dispossessed Fernandino on the Brazil right and found De Bruyne, who flashed a left foot shot inches wide.

As Brazil drove on and on, looking for a foothold in the game, it became a question of whether the Belgians could on. With 15 minutes to run they were tiring, Fellaini and the defenders were struggling to find the same competitive intent which had put them on the brink of this victory.

The attacking menace all came through Coutinho who was given a fraction of space on 767 minutes which allowed him to deliver the cross for which substitute Renato Augusto leapt, this time leaving Kompany and Alderweireld standing, to direct home a header.

Then, the two chances which will be haunting Brazil today. Augusto ran through on goal, fed by Coutinho, and blasted wide. Coutinho ran in himself, fed by Neymar, and did the same.

In the aftermath, Tite rejected the Europeans – who have all four semi-final berths – possess a pragmatism that the South Americans lack.

‘It’s a team that solid and aggressive,’ he said. ‘Randomness happens and it was harsh on us. There are European teams left – that is normal. I dont think [pragmatism] is a determining factor.’ So Brazil repair home, their wait for a sixth World Cup extended to 20 years at least, wondering what they must do to clinch it again.

De Futebol Brasil defeats overrated Mexico 2-1! Two goals down Belgium scored a 3-2 win over Japan

Yes! Brasil is on to the quarterfinals with a hard fought 2-0 win over Mexico. The so-called experts told us Mexico is better than Brasil. Not so fast bucko Brasil wins with a total team effort.

So once again the experts were and are wrong. The Conventual wisdom is wrong once again.

So how can these clowns be called experts when they are wrong all the time?

Go figure!

With each match Brasil is playing better and better.

The difference is that Brasil is one hundred percent better on defense.

Goals by Neymar 51st minute and Roberto Firmino 88th minute to seal the deal for guys.

Belgium had the scare of their lives when Japan jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Belgium clawed their way back to earn a 3-2 win over Japan.

Brasil-Belgium will battle in the quarterfinals.

The Daily Mail put it this way: “Nacer Chadli’s dramatic 94th-minute winner — going from one end to the other in 9.94 seconds — completed an incredible Marouane Fellaini-inspired comeback to break Japanese hearts.”

The Guardians Jonathan Wilson:” Beneath the fancy hair, the absurd solipsism and the antics of a latter-day Sun King, it is good to be reminded sometimes that Neymar is an exceptionally gifted footballer. It was his goal that broke the deadlock and if his influence on this game was far more positive than in any in the group stage, it was almost entirely because he played without that same furious determination to be the protagonist.

But, of course, he is the same Neymar, the same diva who must always be the centre of attention. Just when everything seemed to be going well, just when it seemed there might be an argument he was growing into his role, he reacted ludicrously as Miguel Layún picked the ball from between his feet as he lay by the side of the pitch. Perhaps the Mexican midfielder did brush his ankle, but the fourth official was roughly six inches away and saw nothing untoward, and neither did VAR.

Neymar, though, bucked and writhed as though he had just trodden on the third rail. Within seconds, once no card had been produced, he was back up and running as normal. It was hard to paint that as anything but the most scandalous simulation by a player who combines the most sublime skill with the most shameful self-indulgence.

It was a great shame, for until then everything had been going so well, both for Neymar and the team that keeps threatening to emerge from his shadow. Until they tired towards the end of the first half, Mexico had controlled possession and territory. Neymar had been reduced to a peripheral role, an occasional outlet, played high up field to be a conduit for breakaways, to attack Edson Álvarez, something he did so well in combination with Philippe Coutinho that it was Brazil who looked the more dangerous. But at half-time it remains goalless and there was a sense that Brazil could be facing a long battle in the sapping heat.

But six minutes into the second half Neymar picked up the ball on the left. In familiar style he skipped inside, scuttling past his full-back. Mexico got back, packed the edge of the box. It seemed certain that Neymar who take on a right-footed shot and the ball would be blocked. But then he did something utterly unexpected: he passed.

It was a backheel, but this was not one of his needless tricks designed to showcase his own ability or demean a defender, punishing them for having the temerity to stand up to him. This was a pragmatic backheel, one that changed the shape of the attack, that set Willian, making a crossover run in space on the left side of the box. He crossed low and Neymar was there at the back post to claim his reward.

As a parable of the benefits of playing for the team it could hardly have been bettered.

The goal was not just a symbol of Neymar’s improved display, but of Tite’s clever game plan. There were moments of rapid interplay, little darts and flurries that gave an indication of potentially great side lying not too far beneath the surface. For all that Mexico offered the idea of a threat, only a string of fine saves from Guillermo Ochoa, reprising his excellent display against Brazil in the last World Cup, prevented Brazil from having the game comfortably sewn up before the hour. The game was eventually sealed by Roberto Firmino a minute from time. Neymar will claim an assist, although there is no doubt he was shooting when Ochoa deflected the ball into the path of the Lverpool forward.

But this side is about far more than Neymar. his is a Brazil of many parts that are looking increasingly coherent despite a possible weakness at full-back. Fagner, brought in at right-back in place of Danilo, struggled against both Carlos Vela and Hirving Lozano, who switched flanks repeatedly as though both were desperate to have a go at Dani Alves’s replacement’s replacement.

Set against that apparent vulnerability, though, is Brazil’s most underrated quality. They are prepared to play without the ball, prepared to draw opponents on, and the two central defenders, Thiago Silva and Miranda, protected by Casemiro, are good enough to at least restrict the clear chances they give up.

Yet to an extent Mexico were complicit in their own impotence. It has been a feature of Mexico’s tournament so far that they do not make the most of their chances, that they sweep forward in green waves that do not necessarily produce much, a result of a lack of ruthlessness with the final ball and perhaps of a reluctance on the part of the midfield to get forward and support the forward line. Decision-making, again and again, let them down.

But it would be wrong to portray this as the Germany game redux, just with a different result. There was a sense of control about Brazil that Germany never approached, a feeling throughout that they were holding Mexico at arm’s length, restricting them, by the end, to hopeful charges at the box or speculative long-range efforts.

It was a game won with an impressive defensive performance and enough attacking flair that it always seemed a matter of when rather than if they would score. There are even signs that Neymar is beginning to use his talent for the collective.

De Futebol Brasil Wins! Tops Group E!

Brasil defeated Serbia 2-0. The Guys win Group E with seven points. Switzerland and Costa Rica tied two all.

Up next for the guys is Mexico. Switzerland will square off against Sweden.

In Group F Sweden beat the crap out of Mexico 3-0 and South Korea shocked Germany winning 2-0. This loss sent the defeating World Cup champions packing.

The Daily Mail:” Some may say this is not a vintage Brazil team, not yet anyway. But they do have classic Brazilian traits.

Coach Tite’s team are talented yet capriciously vulnerable and isn’t that just how we have always liked them?

Nobody likes a flawless football team and this is certainly not one. They won deservedly here and have recovered admirably from the shock of drawing their opening group game against Switzerland.

But the way that Serbia were applauded from the field by their noisy, vibrant supporters told us that this had been a little bit closer than Brazil would have liked.

Brazil will now face Mexico in the last sixteen in Samara. They remain beguiling to watch and will probably get better from here. Last night, for example, there were signs that Neymar is growing in to the tournament after recovering from his long-term ankle injury.

They were not always convincing, though, and this remains a tournament that feels as though it could throw them from the tracks at any moment.

When the Mexicans – and anyone else who may yet face Brazil – look for encouragement then all they require is to watch the first 20 minutes of the second half. A goal down and needing victory, Serbia pushed hard at the Brazilian door and more than once it almost flew open.

The problem, really, is quite simple. Brazil are not adept at dealing with quality crosses. They have a goalkeeper who prefers to punch rather than catch and central defenders who do not communicate with him or indeed with each other.

That is never a good combination and it really was only through a smattering of good fortune that it was not their undoing.

Tite may wake up this morning and look at the remainder of the competition and wonder if his team may have been better to finish second in the group. They are now in the tougher half of the draw by far.

But he will see progress and after the way they started the tournament that would be right

Here they were the better team in the first half and deservedly led.

Serbia began the game cautiously and at least had a plan. They sat in behind the ball in numbers and that made it hard for Brazil to pierce them early on.

The South American sections of the crowd got excited early on when Gabriel Jesus looked as though he may score but he was actually offside while another movement involving the Manchester City player ended with Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic pawing away an effort from Neymar that may have passed safely across the face of goal anyway.

Jesus then got clear down the left in the 29th minute but chose to cut back inside instead of trying the shot from an angle. He successfully stepped inside Milos Veljkovic but that allowed other defenders to arrive and the shot struck a Serbian leg and went behind for a corner that came to nothing.

That rather summed Brazil up for a while. Nearly but not quite. And when their goal arrived it was rather more direct.

The excellent Philippe Coutinho spotted the surging run of Paulinho and dropped a perfect pass over the top of the Serbian back four and in to his path.

Unlike the ball that Lionel Messi turned in to a goal for Argentina 24 hours earlier, this one only required one touch and that was to lift it over the top of the Serbian goalkeeper. Maybe Stojkovic had committed himself a little early but maybe there wasn’t much choice.

So Brazil were ahead and Serbia had no choice but to attack. Twice early in the second half they came close, Thiago Silva clearing an Aleksandar MItrovic header off the line after goalkeeper Alisson palmed a clearance straight to the Newcastle striker and then the same attacker heading a cross powerfully down for the keeper to save on the line.

There were other moments of panic, too, as Brazil struggled to cope but moments after City’s Fernandinho was sent on to shore up the midfield, Thiago Silva headed in a corner at the near post and that settled the game.

It was not a very Brazilian goal towards the end of what had been, at times, a very Brazilian performance.

De Futebol Brasil Wins! The Guys are atop the heap in Group E

Brasil missed by that much in the first ninety minutes of the match against Costa Rica. The guys didn’t give up scoring twice in injury time to win 2-0.

This win was huge for the guys.

Switzerland came back from a goal down to beat Serbia 2-1. Both my guys from Brasil and Switzerland each have four points in Group E. Brasil is the top dog with a plus two while the Swiss is a plus one. Serbia is third with three points and Costa Rica has zip-zero-nada.

The Guardians Barney Ronay:” Well, that was late; and indeed more than a little ugly. On a breezy, bad-tempered afternoon by the Gulf of Finland Brazil defeated Costa Rica 2-0 at the St Petersburg Stadium to ease them towards the knock-out stage of Russia 2018.

The goals were both scored in injury time, the key one by their best player Phlippe Coutinho who came haring through a crowd on to a miscrontrolled touch from Roberto Firmino to poke the ball through the legs of Keylor Navas and send the yellow shirts into a wild, squealing catharsis in the stands.

As the clock ticked down Neymar added a second, the Costa Rica defence parting after some fine, dogged efforts. Brazil’s captain celebrated like a World Cup winner having stabbed the ball into an empty net from Douglas Costa’s cross.

It was an eventful day for the world’s costliest player, who was a source of constant friction, who grumbled and moaned and threw himself to the floor constantly and might have been sent off for a combination of dissent and cheating. Neymar wept dramatically on the pitch at the final whistle, shoulders shuddering, hands shielding his visage from the world. Indeed.

Brazil now have four points in Group E. A draw with Serbia will guarantee progress, if not in the wider sense of the word after another performance that stuttered and stumbled. In reality this game will be remembered for Neymar’s antics more than a fine showing from Coutinho, excellent defending from Costa Rica and an important win for Tite’s team.

A turning point seemed to have arrived around the hour, as the Dutch referee Björn Kuipers finally snapped. For the preceding 60 minutes Neymar had been chirping, chattering, groaning, writhing, winging in his ear, enraged at some perceived rough treatment from a gnarled Costa Rica defence.

As Brazil defended a corner Kuipers could be seen telling Brazil’s captain to be quiet in the way an exasperated father might speak to a sullen and spoiled teenager. Seconds later Neymar broke with the ball down the left wing, finding finally a huge green steppe of space in that white-shirted defence.

Seventeen minutes later Kuipers was finally, and briefly, beaten into submission. No doubt it just wears you down. As Giancarlo González touched, briefly, the Neymar abdomen Brazil’s captain toppled backwards in a ludicrous pantomime of a dying sapling. Kuipers gave the penalty. Neymar lay on the floor being cosseted and nursed by his teammates, preposterous spectacle, as though finally victorious in his battle with injustice.

Out of his sight Kuipers trotted off, looked at the VAR screen, and reversed the decision. He should also have booked Neymar. Well played Mr Kuipers, and well played VAR. A penalty would have been a reward for superstar strops, diva-pouts, and utterly graceless behaviour from a man who carries his nation’s name and its sporting reputation.

This World Cup has been waiting for somebody to provide a statement performance, for one of the usual Alpha teams to pull themselves up to their full height and decide that, in fact, this tournament is there for the taking if somebody can get the thrusters lined up, the gears to click, and point all that star power in the stronger squads the right way.

This wasn’t it, at least not for the opening 85 minutes or so. The St Petersburg Stadium is out on the water, lodged beside the stunning cantilevered bridge that swoops in above the tide and funnels the main traffic arteries into the city centre.

It is, as ever at this World Cup, a stunning thing, another enormo-drome with the most astonishingly vast and heavy roof fanned out around steel girders of dizzying scale and heft, ranged above the pitch like a vast iron giant cradling his fingers. The stands were the usual wallpaper-setting of Brazil gold, broken up by some wildly enthusiastic blocks of Costa Rican red as Brazil kicked off with the afternoon sun on the pitch. With Cost Rica unchanged Fagner came in at right‑back for Brazil who pressed early on, Coutinho shooting just over after Bryan Ruiz had given him the ball.

But the blue shirts were slow through midfield, a porridge of sideways passing and sludgy movement. It was Costa Rica who should have taken the lead on 12 minutes, as Celso Borges came striding forward and shot low and hard but past the left‑hand post from a cut-back from Ruiz, with Brazil’s midfield equally static chasing back. A couple of minutes later Neymar was down once again in howls of agony as he turned his ankle, rising to limp on a little sullenly.

Neymar is targeted. But he doesn’t half make it easy, never once hiding his disgust and his distraction, shuddering with celebrity disdain at these lesser beings, these rough boys. Again Neymar went down, this time after “putting a hat on” Cristian Gamboa (nicking the ball over his head) a terrible humiliation in Brazilian football. Again there were chunterings to the referee, a loss of focus, pointless quibbling from a group that would be better served trying to inject some snap into its passing, some venom into its movement.

There were dives and triple-pikes and wonderfully dramatic falls, constant TV closeups of that pained, tearful Neymar face. This is a different player right now to the sprightly warrior of 2014 already an A‑lister then, with the home hopes of his nation, but transformed now into a mardy, perpetually wronged drama-magnet. Life moves pretty fast, Neymar old boy. If you don’t stop rolling around once in a while, you could miss it.

As the teams walked off for half‑time there were complaints from a delegation of Brazil players. Outside the dressing rooms Neymar approached the referee and prattled on some more about his treatment. This was not a dirty game, or anything close to the mugging Brazil’s captain seemed to imagine. Cost Rica were simply competitive. But Brazil looked a fragile, high‑maintenance team here.

And despite his princely status Neymar was overshadowed again here by Coutinho, who really should be taking free kicks, who should right now be the hub of this team, given as much leverage as he likes to take the ball and make the game up in front of him.

Tite took off Willian, who had been poor, at half time, and put on the more direct Douglas Costa. And suddenly Brazil were tearing into Costa Rica, Jesus heading powerfully on to the bar from a Douglas cross. The ball bounced out to Coutinho whose shot was deflected just wide by Cristian Gamboa.

And still most of the good things for Brazil came through Coutinho, the chugging, ferreting heart of an otherwise prosaic midfield.

Tite twisted again, bringing on Roberto Firmino for Paulinho. Neymar shot wide of the post on the run with space in front of him. Clearly he has rushed his way back to this tournament. But he doesn’t deal with rustiness well.

Moments late Neymar was finally booked, this time for a pathetic hissy fit, throwing the ball away after a tackle. Frankly, he should have been off at that stage, for the sake of a no-doubt exasperated audience and also for his own benefit. Something is awry here. This was not the behaviour or the demeanour of a happy young superstar athlete, or indeed anyone charged with providing entertainment for a dizzyingly high price. Two late goals will disguise a strange performance from a team with plenty of work still to do.

De Futebol Brasil stinks! A one all Draw with Switzerland

For the first time since 1978 Brasil has not won their opening match in the World Cup. The guys snatched a draw from the jaws of victory. Lazy horrible defense cost Brasil big time.

Phillipe Coutinho tickled the twines in the 20th minute. However, Switzerland came back to score in 50th minute. Steven Zuber parked in front net by his lonesome poked hone the rock to level this puppy at one all.

Brasileiros had their chances to get the match winner but they missed it by that much.

Serbia defeated Costa Rica 1-0.

Serbia is top dog with three points.

Brasil and Switzerland are second and third with one point apiece.

Costa Rica is in the whale dung position with zero points.

The upset of the day Mexico defeated Germany 1-0.

The Guardians David Hytner:” his was not how Brazil had scripted it. The five-times world champions were in control thanks to a trademark Philippe Coutinho screamer and the first step to avenge the trauma from the previous finals looked set to be sure-footed.

Yet one lapse was all it took for Switzerland to crash back into it – Steven Zuber heading the equaliser – and, with a priceless result within their grasp, they were in no mood to relinquish it.

Brazil complained bitterly that Zuber’s goal ought to have been disallowed for a push on Miranda but the referee, César Arturo Ramos, was correct to ignore them.

Switzerland, ranked sixth in the world, were on the back foot for almost all of the evening and they rode their luck during a frenetic finale when Brazil pushed hard for a winner. They had a flurry of chances but none would go in and, in the end, it turned out to be a valiant point for the Swiss.

Brazil have cast themselves as avenging angels, even if the agony of their home 2014 World Cup – when they were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final – might never truly leave them and they have not run from their status of favourites. Far from it. Neymar had posted a message on the eve of this tie declaring himself unafraid of dreaming big. “Let’s go Brazil – for the sixth!” he wrote.

But it was not their night. Coutinho sliced when well placed on 69 minutes while Gabriel Jesus felt that he should have had a penalty when Manuel Akanji put his hands on him inside the area. In the closing minutes Neymar and the substitute Roberto Firmino headed too close to Yann Sommer, Miranda dragged wide when gloriously placed and another substitute, Renato Augusto, watched Fabian Schär clear a shot to safety. The ball simply would not go in.

Switzerland wanted to impose themselves and to play their front‑foot possession style but it would become a display of rearguard action. The occasion had felt different for Brazil when Coutinho put them in front and the goal was a peach.

Neymar, looking every inch the A‑lister with his meticulously coiffured blond crop, popped the ball off to Marcelo and his cross was headed out by Zuber but only as far as Coutinho. The midfielder took a touch before shaping a right-footed curler into the far corner. Sommer dived at full stretch but there was nothing he could do.

Tite had started Coutinho on the left of a midfield three, which had Paulinho on the right and Casemiro at the base, but the former Liverpool man had the scope to roam. So did Neymar. Actually, Neymar was allowed to do whatever he desired and that included a few bursts of trademark professional dramatics. Valon Behrami could be seen to laugh after one first-half Neymar tumble and there were other occasions when he went down with ease.

Neymar demands free-kicks from any contact; it is a perk of his status. But those in red played with fire whenever they challenged him. At times, his rapid movement was too much. Stephan Lichtsteiner, Schär and Behrami were each booked for fouls on him.

Brazil might have led sooner. Neymar combined with Coutinho to cross low and when Schär got himself into a tangle, Paulinho sniffed out a close-range shooting chance. He went for the far corner, scuffing it slightly, only for Sommer to make a finger-tip save. The goalkeeper did not get the credit at the time, with Ramos awarding a goal-kick rather than a corner.

Blerim Dzemaili had lifted an early half-chance high from Xherdan Shaqiri’s pass but Switzerland could do nothing further as an attacking force before the interval. They would also breathe a sigh of relief when Thiago Silva glanced over from Neymar’s corner at the end of the half. Moments earlier, Akanji had snuffed out Jesus in a last-man duel.

The game turned sharply at the beginning of the second half and it was a poor way for Brazil to surrender the initiative. From Shaqiri’s corner, Miranda felt Zuber deliver a little shove to his back but it was not enough to throw him off balance. He had merely lost his man, misreading the flight of the ball. Zuber leapt up to head past the exposed Alisson. Brazil pleaded in vain for a VAR review. Game on.

witzerland grew visibly and, all of a sudden, there were one or two jitters in Brazil’s ranks. Neymar, who has only just returned from a serious ankle and metatarsal injury, looked to be feeling the troublesome right foot. His fitness remains a concern, as does his tendency to freeze-frame in possession, as he looks to draw his marker into a rash move. Does his tendency unduly slow Brazil’s tempo?

Tite made midfield changes, swapping Casemiro, who had been booked, for Fernandinho and Paulinho for Renato Augusto. It did not alter Brazil’s shape or their approach.

They continued to probe, primarily through Neymar, but Switzerland, who were always likely to be obdurate, could feel the desperation and their resilience grew. Tite’s final substitution was also like-for-like. Jesus off; Firmino on.

Jesus had been central to the game’s greatest controversy. On 74 minutes Akanji put his arms around him as he ran onto a pass inside the area. Down he went but the appeals were waved away. The fall looked exaggerated but the contact was there. It was certainly risky from Akanji. He got away with it. Switzerland would do likewise with the point.

De Futebol 1986 World Cup

Let’s take another trip in the way back machine. This time the 1986 World Cup in Mexico City.

The Guardians Rob Smyth:” The right-back was unknown, uncapped and unemployed before scoring twIn the summer of 1964, England took part in the Little World Cup in Brazil. It was a simple four-team league involving Portugal, Argentina and the hosts. England finished joint-bottom with Portugal. In their first match they were plugged 5-1 by Brazil in Rio. They commiserated with a night on the town, and were staggering around Copacabana beach the following morning when they were challenged to a game by some local kids.

It was an embarrassing mismatch: the England team, two years away from winning the Big World Cup, got absolutely slaughtered for the third time in 18 hours. Admittedly it was 12 v seven, and the seven had quaffed a few performance-diminishing substances the night before. But the story, told in Jimmy Greaves’s Don’t Shoot the Manager, reflects an eternal truth about Brazilian football: that there are brilliant, natural talents on every beach corner.

The ultimate symbol of that is Josimar, the two-hit wonder of Mexico 86. No World Cup has ever produced a better collection of goals – if you do only one thing with your lunch break today – and Josimar scored two monsters against Northern Ireland and Poland. He might as well have come straight out of the thin Mexican air. Nobody outside Brazil had heard of him; he wasn’t even in the Panini album.

He wasn’t just unknown – he was also uncapped and unemployed when he was called up to the Brazil squad at the last minute after the first-choice right-back Leandro pulled out. Four players missed a curfew but only one, the playboy winger Renato Gaúcho, was thrown out of the squad by the manager Telê Santana. Leandro, whose head was a mess at the time, pulled out in a kind of guilty solidarity.

Josimar had not played a game since mid-March, when his Botafogo contract expired. He was cooking and looking after his pregnant wife when he received a call telling him he was going to Mexico. In the best traditions, he thought it was a joke, politely said thank you and got on with his day. An hour later he received another call telling him where and when to report.

Édson Boaro, the back-up for Leandro who was now first choice, got injured after 10 minutes of the second match against Algeria. Josimar was not on the bench but he did replace Edson in the starting line-up against Northern Ireland six days later. He was strikingly tall for a full-back and formidably built, with a sinewy frame and thighs made of oak.

Brazil were 1-0 up with four minutes to go to half-time, keeping the ball with some lazy passing in Northern Ireland’s half. “Josimar … Júnior … Elzo … Alemao,” said BBC commentator John Motson, capturing the rhythmic groove of Brazil’s possession as Alemão played the ball square to Josimar. “Well, Careca and Casagrande are waiting for a cross.”

They’re still waiting. Josimar pushed the ball in front of him, sprinted on the spot in excitement at what he was about to attempt, and put his whole being into a shot. It was a ridiculous distance from which to shoot – 30 yards out and a long way to the right of centre – but the ball swooshed wickedly and arrowed past Pat Jennings into the far top corner.

The celebration was almost as iconic as the goal. Josimar went off on a mini lap of honour, both arms raised in the air, his face a picture of giddy disbelief. Years later, Jennings was asked by a small boy at a Q&A what it was like to be chipped by Josimar from 35 yards. “Son,” he said. “Your idea of a chip and my idea of a chip are two different things!”

For a full-back, a goal like that is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. So Josimar did it again four days later, rampaging through the Poland defence to batter the ball home from an absurd angle. It was the second goal in a 4-0 win that took Brazil into the quarter-finals, where they lost to France on penalties after a classic 1-1 draw.

Even though he only played three games, Josimar was included in Fifa’s team of the tournament, the only Brazilian apart from the centre-back Júlio César to make the XI. Botafogo re-signed him, and the media adopted him. “UM HERÓI DESEMPREGADO” (THE UNEMPLOYED HERO) was the headline of a feature in Placar. He also won an informal award as the most beautiful player of the tournament. “I’m just like coffee,” he said. “The ‘blackie’ that satisfies everyone.”

The fairytale soon became a cautionary tale. Josimar, like so many Brazilian footballers from poor backgrounds, was allergic to overnight fame. His life was tipped downside up and he surrendered to a hat-trick of vices: booze (especially whisky), cocaine and womanising.

Soon after Mexico, he started to make different kinds of headlines. He ended up in prison after hitting a prostitute who racially abused him when he tried to negotiate a cheaper price for an orgy that had already happened. A few years later, he threw his wallet out of the window when being chased by police; it was later found with three grams of coke in it. His brother, a cocaine addict, was also shot dead in a favela.

Josimar was one of the first bad boys of Brazilian football, a status that rankled. “Maradona and Edmundo were given second chances,” he said in a 1995 interview. “Why not me? Nobody ever proved anything against me. I only liked a bit of whisky.”

Many sportsmen never recover from their lowest point; Josimar never really got over the high of Mexico and his career drifted to nothing. In 1988 he almost went to Dundee United (the mind boggles at the thought of the relationship between Josimar and Jim McLean) and he was offered to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United (the mind boggles, etc) before having a shambolic spell at Sevilla. He did play a significant part in Botafogo’s legendary Campeonato Carioca victory in 1989, and was a bit-part player in Brazil’s victorious Copa América squad a month later. He won the last of his 16 caps in November 1989. Those two goals in Mexico were the only ones he scored for Brazil.

Josimar eventually found his way back on the rails with the help of the great right-back Jorginho. He embraced Christianity and now lives in the north of Brazil. He is still bitter about all the racism, the fake friends and his treatment in the press. His recent interviews suggest the internal tug-of-war between denial and regret is unresolved.

He is more fondly remembered abroad than in Brazil, where he is a curiosity in the national team’s lavish history. The rest of the world only really saw Josimar at Mexico 86 and then in the greatest theatre of all, the imagination. We assumed he was roofing 30-yarders every week. If the World Cup is our dream holiday, once every four years, then Josimar was a helluva of a holiday romance.

Globalisation, the internet and Football Manager have long since stripped football of its mystery. Josimar is a joyful lament for the past. His name – and what a name, by the way – evokes the innocence of ignorance, before the internet bred know-it-alls in more ways than one.

There was a mythical quality to Josimar’s goals. You would see them once in a blue moon – on a grainy home-made VHS that you had lovingly labelled ‘DON’T TAPE OVER’, perhaps, or if Grandstand had a feature on great long-range goals. YouTube has changed our memories of our memories, and probably softened some of the Proustian magic of his goals. But his association is as powerful as ever.

Norway’s best football magazine is called Josimar; there’s even a Scottish graphic designer who named his business after his Brazilian muse. Along with Salvatore Schillaci at Italia 90, Josimar is surely football’s greatest one-tournament wonder.

He is also often included in the list of lost talents. If anything he was the opposite, a good but not great player whose brief career peak was perfectly in sync with the apex of football’s four-year cycle. Brazil has millions of talented unknowns, sure – but few left a mark on the football world like Josimar.