Bruno Fernandes, left, and Cristiano Ronaldo after Portugal scores a goal against Uruguay. Photo: twitter.com/selecaoportugal

By MARK LORENZANA

It seemed as though Neymar’s absence for Brazil’s match against Switzerland on Monday, Nov. 28, due to an ankle injury would come to haunt the Seleção, as the South American squad couldn’t find the net for 82 agonizing minutes. Richarlison, the hero for Brazil against Serbia, scoring two goals — one an impressive, athletic shot — on Thursday, Nov. 24, had a great opportunity at goal, but left it wide. The other Brazilian players who had their own opportunities — Bruno Guimaraes, Gabriel Jesus, Raphinha and Rodrygo — couldn’t deliver.

In the 83rd minute, Brazilian midfielder Casemiro finally scored — to the Swiss National Team’s chagrin. The match ended at 1-0, enough to send Brazil to the round of 16.

“Of course we miss a player like Neymar,” Brazilian coach Tite said after the game. “The team loses a lot without him. But we also have other players who can get the job done, and we saw it today.”

Switzerland had to settle for a close loss, but its World Cup campaign isn’t quite over yet. The Swiss can still advance to the knockout round with a win — or even a tie — against Serbia in their last game in the group stages.

Meanwhile, Portugal likewise advanced to the knockout stage by beating Uruguay, 2-0, on the same game day.

The first goal, which gave Portugal a 1-0 lead, was particularly interesting. Bruno Fernandes booted in a shot that sailed near Cristiano Ronaldo’s head as the erstwhile Manchester United player tried for a header. In the end, though, the goal was credited not to Ronaldo but to Fernandes — although he disagreed.

“The feeling I had was that Cristiano touched the ball. I was passing the ball to him,” Fernandes told reporters after the match. “What matters is that we’re going through to the next round after playing a very tough opponent.”

For Uruguay to advance to the round of 16 after the tough loss to Portugal, it has to win against Ghana in its next game, as a draw or a loss would automatically lead to an early exit.

In the other matches, Cameroon and Serbia settled for a 3-3 draw in an exciting, fast-paced game, while Ghana beat South Korea, 3-2.

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