ROSTOV Russia (Xinhua)
-- Brazil’s position
as favorites to win the 2018 World Cup will be under the spotlight
test when they kick off their World Cup campaign against Switzerland
here on July 17.
The Brazilians travel to Russia following
a convincing 3-0 victory against Austria a week ago as Neymar
banished any doubts about the injury which brought his campaign with
Paris Saint Germain to a premature end.
He scored a quality goal with trademark stepover included, but
Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho also highlighted the depth of attacking
talent available to coach Tite, whose side kicks off in Russia on
the back of the best run of results ever for the Brazilians going
into a World Cup.
Against Austria, Tite used Chelsea forward Willian to accompany
Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho, and Willian will probably start
again in Rostov, leaving Tite to decide whether Fernandinho or
Paulinho partners Casemiro in central midfield.
Marcelo will provide attacking flare from left back, while Dani
Alves’ injury means Danilo will be given the chance on the right.
Meanwhile everything points to Thiago Silva partnering Joao
Miranda in central defense, with Marquinhos likely to miss out, and
Allison in goal amid rumors of a move from Roma to Real Madrid.
The Swiss were slightly unlucky to finish behind Portugal in
their qualifying group but are currently sixth in the FIFA World
rankings with coach Vladimir Petkovic forging a united squad from a
group of players from a host of different ethnic backgrounds.
Petkovic stressed the importance of unity among his players when
he said that although he hadn’t selected the most talented 23 Swiss
players to go to Russia, he had chosen "the best squad".
Their results coming into the tournament have also been good,
with a 2-0 win over Japan following a battling 1-1 draw away to
Spain on June 3.
The Spain match showed the Swiss can soak up a lot of pressure
and keep their shape when they don’t have the ball, which will be
important too on Sunday.
Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji are likely to play in central
defense and there is a chance Johan Djourou could also start.
Stephen Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez, who goes into the
match with two goals in two games, will be the full backs with
Granit Xhaka and Valon Behrami in midfield, while up front Xherdan
Shakiri and Breel Embolo will provide pace on the break.
If the Swiss can hang on until halftime they have a chance of
springing a surprise, but if Brazil take an early lead it could be a
matter of the Swiss hanging on to ensure their goal difference
doesn’t take a battering ahead of more accessible rivals such as
Serbia and Mexico.