DOHA, Qatar. Casemiro just left the stage with his Man of the Match award. The Brazilian midfielder scored a stunning game-winning goal in their second group stage match against a 1-0 win over Switzerland, but he shied away from personal praise, instead spreading recognition throughout the team.
It’s part of the dynamics of the Brazilian national team here in Qatar: the strength of the team outweighs any individual results. But coach Tita allowed himself a momentary distraction when asked if Neymar, who watched the performance from his hotel bed while recuperating from an illness and ankle injury, was right when he tweeted that Casemiro was “the best defender”. midfielder of the world.
“Usually I don’t comment on someone else’s opinion, but this time I will allow myself: I agree with Neymar,” Tite said. “He’s the best.”
Talk to the Brazilian fans here in Qatar and if you ask them who their best player is, they will most likely name Neymar or Vinicius Junior. But ask them who their most important player is, and they unanimously answer: Casemiro. In this age of young midfielders, when the likes of Enzo Fernandez, Jude Bellingham, Gavi and Pedri have all been lauded, it’s the 30-year-old veteran who sets the benchmark for players in his position. The world-class players on his own team are in awe of him; the legends who helped Brazil earn each of the five stars on their jersey are also impressed.
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“The leadership, the technique, the defense, everything about him is impressive,” former Brazilian midfielder Zinho, who was part of the 1994 squad, told Sportzshala. “He’s a benchmark for all of our players in that position.”
If Brazil ends up earning a sixth star in the World Cup final on December 18, then Casemiro will be a huge reason for their success.
Countable Qualities of Casemiro
Cesar Sampaio can help explain Casemiro’s role. A member of the Brazilian coaching staff in Qatar, Sampaio won 47 matches for Selesao over a decade, including his participation in the 1998 World Cup.
“Defensively, Casemiro is the anchor point for the four,” he said at a press conference. “He is involved in management as the first “filter”. On offense, he offers short support to other teammates in midfield and he has the advantage of a medium strike [a shot from outside the box], which is the differential at its position. For me, he is the benchmark for world football in its current position.”
Casemiro is like a “vacuum cleaner” – according to his former Brazil teammate Filipe Luis – he cleans everything in midfield. Casemiro joked about it at a press conference here and said his old Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti called him a “fireman” as he “put out fires” for his team.
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“He is exceptional in all the main aspects of the game, such as heading, using both feet, he can hit balls, he can shoot from outside the box, he can also assist,” explains former Brazilian midfielder Paulo Silas, who played in the Championships peace in 1986 and 1990. “But above all, he always performs in big games.”
While the likes of Neymar, Richarlison and Vinicius tore apart South Korea in a 4-1 round of 16 win, Zinho spent the match just watching Casemiro. “He seems to be everywhere, you know?” Zinho told Sportzshala. “He is in good physical condition and he positions himself very well. He always read correctly, as I said, very well.”
In a team where so much attention is paid to Brazil’s attacking talent, Zinho immediately points to the role played by Casemiro. “The ball always goes through him first, people forget about it,” he says. “He is the balance of the team. He is always in the right place, at the right time, at the right moment to touch the ball – not only by tackling the opposition, but also by building a game with possession.”
“But positionally he is so good, he sees things before others. He almost never misses a tackle, he doesn’t get in a bad position, so when the ball flies towards him, he sees the move before it happens. It’s so hard to resist a guy like that: he’s in a good position, he’s getting to you. Even when an attacker like Richarlison or Vinicius gets tackled, he’s already there getting ready for the second ball, you know? For me, he has been the best player in Brazil so far.”
But Casemiro is dangerous in another way. He scored the winning goal against Switzerland with a beautiful half-kick into the top corner, and against Serbia he landed one long-range shot on the post. These signature lightning strikes are part of Casemiro’s plan, as Tite explains: “This is a player who works as a center player, but he [also] element of surprise that may appear from behind. When he appears from behind, he can surprise.”
But in a role with such danger as “fireman”, he also managed to stay on the right side of the law at the World Cup. “He can pinch the best player on the other team without the mandatory yellow card,” Silas adds. “He’s a guy that everyone loves, the judges and the contestants too, they respect him a lot.”
Former Brazil striker Luis Fabiano told Sportzshala: “Yes, he has a lot of qualities, but we’ve seen other great fives in football with the same qualities. It’s just that today he really plays great football. there is a lot about him, but he has many qualities. A lot of them. He is a very special midfielder. He is almost perfect. To be perfect, you need to be a huge genius, but he is almost perfect. I think he is the best in the world in his position today.”
Pablo Zabaleta met him while playing for Argentina and knows Casemiro well. “He’s a special player, a complete midfielder who gives them balance,” adds Zabaleta. “He can be aggressive on the field, but he is so smart, especially with tactical fouls on the opposite half of the field. He’s also great between the lines and reads the game really well.”
Leadership and Thinking of Casemiro
Casemiro’s nickname on the Brazilian team is “Casão”, loosely translated as “big Casemiro”, a sign of affection reflecting his height but also his presence. While Brazil is captained by Thiago Silva, Casemiro is one of the leaders along with Marquinhos, Daniel Alves, Alisson and Neymar.
Neymar is technical, Silva and Alves are the most experienced, but Casemiro leads by example and players look up to him, especially those from his old Real Madrid days like Rodrigo, Vinicius and Eder Militao.
“When you’re trying to say something, mostly to the little ones, you have to be careful and respect the player’s feelings,” Casemiro said of his leadership back on November 26 at Brazil’s training base. “You have to stay calm so they can be themselves at the World Cup. If they’re here, it’s because they’re brave, fearless, then you want them to do what they do for their clubs with us here. You have to stay focused and do what they’re used to.”
Away from Brazil, for those who know him well from Real Madrid, his form here is not surprising. According to Sportzshala sources, he played there from 2013 to 2022 and was loved by the club. He got a call [Real Madrid president] “Son” Florentino Pérez is in the dressing room and was so admired by the management as he never caused trouble and was always ready to help the club in any way, even to the point that they lined up as the new team leader when Sergio Ramos left. He was a father figure to the team’s younger players and played a key role in their quest to win five Champions League titles between 2014 and 2022.
“To be as big as he is, you have to be humble,” says Silas. “Many players didn’t succeed at Real Madrid because they weren’t humble, they didn’t know how to deal with the anxiety, the grandeur and the glamor that comes with playing for Real Madrid. Casemiro knows. He understands everything from what.”
Manchester United are now capitalizing on the Casemiro factor. United pursued Dutch defensive midfielder Frenkie de Jong for much of the summer, but after it became clear he had no intention of joining, they turned their attention to alternatives. Casemiro had been on their list for a long time, but those in the corridors of Old Trafford weren’t sure they could lure him away from Real Madrid.
But there have been reports in Spain that Real Madrid are looking to ditch the veteran to make way for a new €80m contract with Aurélien Chuameni. The reality is that Ancelotti told Casemiro that he would still be their number 1 in important matches, but he wouldn’t start every game. They desperately wanted to keep it. He started their Supercup win over Eintracht Frankfurt and came off the bench in the first leg of La Liga against Almeria and it looked like Casemiro would stay. But then United offered €70m – and Real Madrid grudgingly agreed – acknowledging that he was 30 years old and would have no more years at the top level.
United bounced back from a 4-0 defeat at Brentford, but Casemiro contacted the club the next day saying he was desperate to join, eager to help the team get back on track.
When Casemiro arrived, United made it a priority to improve his condition so he could handle the rigors of the Premier League. Moving from one country to another is tricky, but sources say United were pleasantly surprised that Casemiro threw himself into it all, installing equipment in his home and entrusting the club with helping his family move as he focused on his fitness -plan. New United boss Erik ten Hag calls him “cement between stones”.
“He just came to Manchester United, he is still getting used to the team and adapting,” says Silas. “But he will be indispensable at United, as he was at Real Madrid, and today he is in the Brazilian national team.”
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