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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Casemiro: Brazil must not be solely reliant on Neymar at the World Cup

The Real Madrid midfielder wants a strong team performance when the Brazilians face Mexico on Monday in Sochi

Casemiro, left, wants Brazil not to solely rely on Neymar for inspiration when Brazil take on Mexico in the second round on Monday. Hannah McKay / Reuters
Casemiro, left, wants Brazil not to solely rely on Neymar for inspiration when Brazil take on Mexico in the second round on Monday. Hannah McKay / Reuters

Even footballing greats sometimes need support. With Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo having said their goodbyes to Russia on Saturday evening, the protagonists’ spotlight falls next at the feet of Brazil’s Neymar.

No other player is deemed as much of a game-changer as the Paris Saint-Germain forward and on Monday he will be expected to succeed where the others failed — helping his side progress to the quarter-finals.

The five-time champions face Mexico in Samara and while few countries are more renowned for producing world-beaters, Brazil must not rely solely on their star forward, says defensive midfielder Casemiro.

The 26-year-old plays with Ronaldo at Real Madrid and is quick to stress that one player cannot do it alone, even if — as he says of his two superstar teammates — “they come from another world”.

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“Football will always have one or two players that people talk about,” said the former Sao Paulo volante.

“Of course, Neymar is undoubtedly that player for us here - there is no way to hide that. But if you don’t have a good team, you won’t be able to win. We have other wonderful players too. We also had in the past Romario, Pele, Ronaldo … but the whole group must be good. It’s important to have all 11 players playing together.”

One player that will undergo tests before being selected against Mexico is Marcelo. The left-back was removed early in Brazil’s last game with Serbia citing back trouble, with team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar later suggesting it may have been caused by the mattresses in the team hotel.

Casemiro, who was raised by his mum and two brothers in one of Sao Paulo’s poorest neighbourhoods, dismissed such a diagnosis.

“They are saying the mattress is bad. It was nice,” he said. “As kids, a lot of us players didn’t even have mattresses to sleep on. Each person blames whatever, but I slept for a long time on the floor. I didn’t even have a mattress.”

Times have changed. Casemiro has gone from his mother’s floor to the very top of his sport, winning four Uefa Champions League titles with Madrid and 27 caps for Brazil. He knows, however, that among his compatriots domestic titles pale in comparison to national honours.

Sixty years after Brazil’s first World Cup title, the likes of Pele, Nilton and Djalma Santos, and Garrincha continue to be lionised.

“We are totally aware that we only make history if we win and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Casemiro added. “We are growing into the competition, which is normal, and we are only going to get better. We may play a great game and be eliminated, this is football. But if we lose, we will lose with a great performance.”

Mexico will aim to make life tough this evening, but their record against South American sides is poor, with just one win in the past 15 tournaments. Casemiro, however, suspects Mexico’s venerated coach Juan Carlos Osorio will have a plan to try to catch them out.

“Undoubtedly, if they are trying to play [their normal] type of game, it will be good for Brazil,” he said. “Even though it’s not their characteristics to play defensively, their coach is very smart.

"He worked at Sao Paulo and I heard a lot of good things about him. He is a wonderful coach and definitely will want to try something different to surprise us.”

After all the eliminations of the past few days, be it Messi, Ronaldo or even the 2014-winning German national team, the biggest surprise on Monday would be for there to be no surprise at all.