Gary Neville was full of praise for Thiago Silva after his Brazil squad reached the last-16 of the World Cup with a group match to spare.
Although there was huffing and puffing from Tite’s side for large parts of the 1-0 victory over Swizterland, Casemiro’s wonder strike in the second half saw them progress to the knockout stages after two wins from two so far.
Silva has been part of a defence in the games against Serbia and the Swiss that are not only yet to concede, but also yet to face a shot on target, with Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson having not made a save 180 minutes into the tournament.
At 38, Silva remains integral to his country just as he does to Chelsea and moved to being the third oldest outfield player at a World Cup of all time at this tournament. Such is his reading of the game and his anticipation of danger, Silva is still able to work as a brilliant operator despite not having the pace he once did.
Neville, who purred over the Brazilians and their second-half ambition, admires Silva’s impact from the back and sees it as vital to helping the rest of his team. “They push up the pitch unbelievably,” he explained at full-time. “I don’t know how Thiago Silva at his age pushes up the pitch, to get in front of your forward all the time to try and win it is one of the hardest things to do, he’s still doing that late into his 30s, it’s unbelievable.”
Silva already has over 100 caps and is playing in his eighth major tournament as a player. No defender has more caps than him either for the national side. International football arguably suits him better than the pace of the Premier League too, allowing him more time on the ball and extra recovery periods off it.
He will be a key part of Brazil’s run deep into the tournament, something they haven’t won for 20 years, and will also be granted the chance to rest his legs in the final group game as well. Silva had been experiencing perhaps his worst run of form in a Chelsea shirt during the last weeks before the domestic break and has played more at this stage of the season than he had in his first two years at Stamford Bridge despite his age.