Sunday 01 July 2018, 07:57

Casemiro, A Seleção’s steadying hand

  • Casemiro's role in midfield brings balance to Brazil

  • Coach Tite lauds his "level of concentration"

  • The Real Madrid man talks about watching his dream come true

By Giancarlo Giampietro with Brazil

Can it be said that behind every great attack there is a great midfielder? While that may not be a hard and fast rule, Casemiro is doing everything he can to prove that, in the case of this Brazil side at least, the answer to the question is: yes.

The midfielder is the first to say that he is not playing a lone hand. Yet there can be no doubting that he is a steadying presence for A Seleção, just as he is for Real Madrid.

“I’m ready and willing. I always say that the boss [Tite] asks me to do more or less the same thing I do for my club,” he told FIFA. “If there’s a reason why I’m here then it’s because I’ve done a good job there and because he has faith in me. Obviously, he changes a thing or two but he always tries to get us doing what we usually do. I have to give him credit for that.”

With an enterprising Mexico side providing the opposition in Samara on Monday, Casemiro will have an even more important role to perform than he usually does. The kind of player who seems to be everywhere at once, he offers vital support to the team’s star acts up front.

“He has an amazing command of his role. I admire the way he occupies space and his level of concentration,” said an approving Tite. “Even in the dressing room he’s got peripheral vision.”

An admiring audience Casemiro is not at all bothered by the fact that in football it is the front men who usually attract all the headlines. The midfielder has gifts that usually go unnoticed by the fans but which arouse nothing but admiration from a very specific audience: coaches.

“When it comes to Real Madrid’s balance, he’s their most important player,” said Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone on analysing their great rivals. “The team has changed a lot since he won a starting place,” said another high-profile coach, Massimiliano Allegri of Juventus.

If Casemiro can draw those kind of comments from opposing coaches, it is not hard to imagine what Zinedine Zidane, one of those responsible for his rise at the Bernabeu, has to say about him: “He provides balance between defence and attack. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. He’s full of confidence and he’s improving with every passing year.”

Serbia v Brazil: Group E - Casemiro celebrates victory

Working with the greats Casemiro admitted to being too embarrassed to even speak to Zidane at the start of his working relationship. His rapid development ended up bringing that barrier down, and though the player might be shy off the pitch, when the conversation turns to football and tactics, he loosens up.

Tite has even said that his conversations with the midfielder gave him some ideas that proved valuable in the qualifying wins over Uruguay and Colombia.

His vision aside, given the journey Casemiro has made in coming from a poor background to reach the top, he has no reason to feel embarrassed when talking to the greats of the game. Abandoned at a very early age by his father, and the eldest of his siblings, he helped his mother Magda look after his two brothers.

Then, at the age of 14, he left his hometown of Sao Jose dos Campos for Sao Paulo to join the youth ranks of the club that bears the city’s name. With the allowance that he received, he was able to cover virtually all his family’s bills back home.

Within four years, he had turned professional and was playing for Brazil’s youth teams, and was well on the road to financial security. “When I made my World Cup debut, I had this little film playing in my head,” added Casemiro, Brazil’s pivotal presence. “It was like watching a dream come true. I’m also thinking about another world title to go with that dream. I want to win.”