Switzerland came back from a goal down to salvage a well-earned point against Brazil in their first match of the World Cup as the five-time champions gave an underwhelming performance at the Rostov Arena.
Anticipation was at fever pitch ahead of the second match of Group E, with Brazil earmarked as one of the clear favourites to go all the way in Russia this summer. Ultimately, however, theÂ SelecaoÂ delivered an enigmatic and frustrating performance in which few concrete chances ever materialised after Philippe Coutinho’s stunning opening goal.
â€‹A lively opening few minutes saw the Swiss have a fair share of the possession, but Brazil’s influence on the game grew rapidly as the players began to find their rhythm on the pitch.
Much of Brazil’s early attacking play came from the flanks, with Chelsea star Willian giving Ricardo Rodriguez some real problems on the wing. However, the opening goal came down to the individual brilliance of one man alone.
It was a sumptuous strike from Coutinho, who suddenly found himself in acres of space when Marcelo’s cross was headed clear by the Swiss defence and responded by curling a perfectly placed effort into the top corner, just clipping the post on the way in.
Switzerland gradually regained a grip on the game as the first half wore on but continued to let themselves down in the final third, with very little of their build-up play evolving into genuine attacking threat.
As always, much of the pre-match discussion was dedicated to Neymar. Though anticipation was high for the forward’s comeback from injury, the world’s most expensive player was subdued in the first half – largely due to the spirited performance of Valon Behrami, who brilliantly shadowed him throughout.
The second half threatened to be more of the same from both sides, until Brazil gave away a sloppy corner five minutes in andÂ Steven Zuber found himself completely unmarked in the six-yard box to head home. Brazil’s defenders protested that Zuber shoved Miranda in the buildup but the goal was given without VAR being consulted.
Chances in the second half were few and far between, with both sides largely cancelling each other out in the final third. Coutinho had a chance to add to his earlier goal with twenty minutes left on the clock, but his half-volley skewed disappointingly wide.
Brazil began to turn up the heat in the final few minutes of the tie, Roberto Firmino drawing a good save from Yann Sommer with a header and Miranda sending a half-volley narrowly wide of the goal.
Though the Swiss spent the final minutes of the tie with their backs to the wall, Vladimir Petkovic’s side held firm to secure what could be a valuable point. Brazil will almost certainly be the less happy of the two sides, with their considerable attacking talent unable to produce enough quality chances to secure the victory.