It is that supercharged armory, of course, that has made Brazil favorite for this tournament, regardless of the striking impressions made over the first round of games in Qatar by France, Spain and England. Its underpinnings, though, are no less significant: the poise and command of Casemiro in midfield; the experience and authority of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos in defense; the presence, as an option of last resort, of the best goalkeeper on the planet.
In those final 20 minutes, as the stadium recovered from its swoon, all of that fell into the sharpest relief possible. Richarlíson’s athleticism, his invention, seemed to have unlocked something in his teammates, to have reminded Brazil that it is the biggest and brightest show in town, that it was time to dust this tournament with its unique, compelling glamour.
And so, all of a sudden, the game reached the stage where Casemiro, the sole defensive midfielder, the only adult in the room, was breezily curling shots off the crossbar from 30 yards. Tite, as if keen to remind everyone else of what, precisely, they were dealing with, spent the final stages throwing on as many absurdly gifted attackers as he was permitted under the rules. Here was Rodrygo, and Antony, and Gabriel Jésus; and if you liked them, wait until you see Gabriel Martinelli.
That level of resource should, of course, provide some solace to the only sour note of the evening: the sight of Neymar hobbling from the field, his right ankle visibly swollen after suffering a heavy tackle. Though Alex Sandro, the left back, assured the news media after the game that Neymar was “fine,” and Tite said that he was confident the team would have him available, it did little to cool Brazil’s collective fever.