Of course, it was that arsenal of turbochargers that made Brazil a favorite at this tournament, regardless of the striking impressions made in the first round in Qatar by France, Spain and England. Its foundation, however, was equally important: Casemiro’s poise and command in midfield; the experience and authority of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos in defence; the presence, as a last resort, of the best goalkeeper on the planet.
In those final 20 minutes, as the stadium recovered from the coma, all of that fell into the greatest possible relief. Richarlíson’s athletic prowess, his invention, seemed to have unlocked something for his teammates, reminding Brazil that this was the biggest and most dazzling show in the city, that it was It’s time to dust this tournament off with its unique, captivating charm.
And so, all of a sudden, the game turned to a stage where Casemiro, the only defensive midfielder, the only man in the room, made cuts over the bar from 30 yards. Tite, as if to remind the others of exactly what they were dealing with, spent the last few stages throwing in as many irrationally gifted attackers as the law allowed. This is Rodrygo, Antony and Gabriel Jesus; and if you like them, wait until you meet Gabriel Martinelli.
Of course, that level of resource would offer some consolation to the evening’s only sour note: the sight of Neymar limping off the field, right ankle visibly swollen after a heavy tackle. Although left-back Alex Sandro assured the media after the game that Neymar was “fine” and Tite said he believed the team would have him, that did not calm Brazil’s collective fever.