sportswriter Michael Place ROSTOV-ON-DON Russia
(Xinhua) -- It began so
promisingly for Brazil as a curling Philippe
Coutinho strike from distance sent the green and
gold masses into raptures.
But there was
little more to celebrate for the hordes of Brazilian
fans who made the trip to the southwestern Russian
port city of Rostov-on-Don on Sunday.
Steven Zuber’s header put Switzerland on level
terms and from there Vladimir Petkovic’s team went
into their autopilot defensive mode to secure what
could prove an invaluable point.
Most pundits expected Brazil to open their World
Cup campaign with a comfortable victory.
It was supposed to be the first step in the South
American team’s quest to exorcise the ghosts of
2014, when Germany crushed their hopes of winning
football’s ultimate prize on home soil with a 7-1
defeat in the semifinals.
Brazil have lost just once since Tite replaced
Dunga as national coach following their group stage
elimination from the 2016 Copa America.
The run has prompted some experts to suggest that
this is Brazil’s best team since 2002, when the
attacking triumvirate of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and
Ronaldinho led them to glory in Japan and South
But Switzerland have exposed cracks in the
Brazilian side that were perhaps previously unseen.
Neymar, sporting a new spaghetti-top haircut that
stood out more than his football, was a long way off
the level that made him—according to FIFA—the
world’s third best player last year.
He was too often and too easily closed down by
the Swiss defense and was guilty on more than one
occasion of trying to beat the opposition on his
Switzerland possibly targeted Neymar for some
rough treatment, but the Paris Saint-Germain
player’s constant complaints to the referee did not
aid his cause, nor did it help to dispel the notion
that he can act like a spoilt child when things
don’t go his way.
Tite is renowned for his skills as a communicator
and now might be a good time to take the former
Santos player aside for a few home truths.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the 26-year-old
was only playing his third match after missing more
than three months with a broken metatarsal in his
Before Sunday’s game, Tite warned that the No. 10
is not yet 100 percent fit, suggesting that a
sharper Neymar awaits Costa Rica and Serbia—Brazil’s
other Group E rivals—in the next 10 days.
Neymar was not the only concern for Brazil.
The defense looked shaky at times and despite
Miranda’s claims that Zuber pushed him in the back
moments before nodding in the equalizer, the Inter
Milan defender probably should have stood his ground
given the minimal contact made.
Instead he lunged forward, effectively giving the
Hoffenheim midfielder a free shot at goal.
Some of Tite’s decisions also raised eyebrows.
It was slightly baffling to say the least that he
chose to take off Paulinho—an effective conduit
between defense and attack in the first half—and
replace him with Renato Augusto, who has barely
played this year and didn’t even make Brazil’s
matchday squad for their pre-World Cup friendlies
because of a knee problem.
The Beijing Guoan player’s lack of match fitness
and rhythm showed in his brief time on the pitch
It was also more than a little surprising that
Tite waited until the 79th minute to replace an
out-of-sorts Gabriel Jesus with Roberto Firmino.
Jesus had a borderline penalty call go against
him just before departing when he went down after
jostling with Manuel Akanji, but the Manchester City
forward was largely anonymous and it is tempting to
wonder whether Brazil might be a more balanced unit
with the all-round qualities of the Liverpool No. 9.
The good news for Brazil is that there is time to
A win in their next match against Costa Rica -
who failed to impress in a 1-0 defeat to Serbia
earlier on Sunday - would ensure their campaign is
back on solid ground.
Tite and his men might also take heart from the
2010 World Cup, when Switzerland beat Spain in the
opening round. And we all know how that tournament
firm to take a draw in low-key Brazil debut
(Xinhua) -- Brazil
disappointed on their World Cup opener as they were
held to a 1-1 draw against Switzerland in
Rostov-On-Don on Sunday night.
Although Philippe Coutinho put Brazil ahead,
Steven Zuber’s header meant the game ended in a draw
as Brazil disappointed in the second half and lacked
the fluidity to break down a well-worked Swiss side.
As expected Brazil coach Tite opted for an
attacking line up with Willian, Gabriel Jesus,
Neymar and Phillipe Coutinho on the pitch, while the
Swiss stuck with their favoured 4-2-3-1 formation
instead of opting to play with three central
defenders as some thought they might.
The first chance fell to Blerim Dzemaili who
volleyed over the Brazil bar, before Brazil
responded with a Willian cross-shot and chance for
Paulinho, who stabbed the ball wide after work from
Coutinho and Neymar.
Brazil were clearly on top and Coutinho opened
the scoring with a typical 25-yard shot which curled
past Yann Sommer and into the Swiss goal off the
inside of the post in the 20th minute.
The Brazilians looked content to take their foot
off the gas after the goal and settled for keeping
possession, although it needed some good
anticipation from Swiss defender Manuel Akanji to
stop Gabriel Jesus getting in on goal and Thiago
Silva headed over from a corner in injury time.
The Swiss didn’t get a shot on target in the
first half, but they were level five minutes after
the break when Steven Zuber took advantage of some
poor marking from a corner to head home in the 50th
minute with Joao Miranda claiming a push.
Tite responded by replacing Casemiro, who had
been booked, by the more direct Fernandinho,
although his side still looked uncomfortable as the
Swiss clearly gained confidence and he replaced
Paulinho with Renato Augusto in the 68th minute.
Coutinho shot wide after Lichtsteiner misjudged a
cross, while at the other end Dzemaili shot tamely
at Alisson after a smart pass from Shaqiri.
Gabriel Jesus then went down asking for a penalty
following a challenge from Akanji, but the referee
waved play on, before Neymar tried his luck only for
Sommer to claim easily.
Roberto Firminho was Brazil’s last substitute and
he smashed a shot over the bar and although Miranda
and Renato Agusto had late chances to win the match
for Brazil neither were able to hit the target or
even work Sommer, who only had one tough save to
make all night.
Switzerland draw 1-1 in Group E match in
(Xinhua) -- Brazil and
Switzerland drew their opening World Cup group E
match 1-1 in the Rostov Arena on Sunday night.
Philippe Coutinho put Brazil ahead after 20
minutes with a curling shot, but Steven Zubar’s 50th
minute header meant it ended all square.
Coutinho’s goal, which was a curling 25-yard shot
that went in off the post looked to have put Brazil
in control, but they seemed to lose focus and
although Switzerland failed to get a shot on target
in the first 45 minutes Zubar’s header following a
corner drew them level.
Brazil rarely looked fluid after that goal and
although Roberto Firminho and Joao Miranda had
chances to seal the win, Yann Sommer in the Swiss
goal only had one difficult save to make.