It was, of course, this supercharged arsenal that made Brazil favorites in this tournament, regardless of the stellar impressions made in the first round of matches in Qatar by France, Spain and England. His foundations, however, are no less important: Casemiro’s balance and command in midfield; the experience and authority of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos in defence; the presence, as a last resort option, of the best goalkeeper on the planet.
In these last 20 minutes, as the stadium recovered from its swoon, it all fell into the starkest possible relief. Richarlíson’s athleticism, his invention, seemed to have unlocked something in his teammates, reminded Brazil that this was the biggest and brightest show in town, that it was time to sprinkle this tournament with its unique and compelling glamour.
And so, all of a sudden, the game reached the stage where Casemiro, the only defensive midfielder, the only adult in the room, was curling shots across the crossbar with ease from 30 yards out. Titus, as if keen to remind everyone else what, precisely, they were dealing with, spent the final stages throwing in as many absurdly gifted attackers as the rules allowed. Here is Rodrygo, and Antony, and Gabriel Jesus; and if you liked them, wait until you see Gabriel Martinelli.
This level of resourcefulness should, of course, bring some solace to the only low note of the evening: the sight of Neymar hobbling off the pitch, his right ankle visibly swollen after suffering a heavy tackle. Although left-back Alex Sandro assured the media after the match that Neymar was ‘fine’, just a little sore and in need of ice, that did little to quell the collective fever of the Brazil.