Brazil suffer first night nerves in Swiss stalemate

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ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia, June 18, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Coach Tite blamed first
night nerves after Brazil’s bid for a sixth World Cup got off to a rocky
start as Switzerland withstood an early onslaught to snatch a 1-1 draw in
Rostov-on-Don on Sunday.

On the day when holders Germany were shocked 1-0 by Mexico, Brazil’s tag
as pre-tournament favourites looked justified in a dominant first-half capped
by Philippe Coutinho’s wonder strike to open the scoring.

However, Brazil paid for their failure to kill the game off when Steven
Zuber powered home an equaliser from Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner five minutes
after the break.

The pressure will now be on Brazil to kickstart their campaign when they
face Costa Rica on Friday.

The stalemate left Tite unimpressed.

“I’m not happy with this result. Our finishing wasn’t good. We had 20
chances, but too many shots were off target. We should have made their keeper
work harder than that.

“I put it down to stress, first match nerves, that’s true for me too,” the
Brazil boss said.

He added: “Up to their goal, I was satisfied. We were moving well. Then
they raised their game, and it took us 10 minutes to regain our rhythm. But
once again, our finishing wasn’t good.”

His Swiss counterpart Vladimir Petkovic had an understandably more upbeat
assessment of the game.

“I’m proud of my lads. I hope this will mean we are taken seriously,” he
said.

Earlier, Serbia beat Los Ticos 1-0 to move to the top of Group F.

Coutinho had been handed a central role behind Neymar, on his first
competitive game for four months, Gabriel Jesus and Willian in a line-up
filled with attacking intent.

The five-time world champions went about their task of erasing the
memories of a 7-1 thrashing by Germany on home soil four years ago
purposefully early on.

Paulinho passed up a glorious chance when his scuffed effort from close
range was turned behind by Yann Sommer.

It seemed a matter of time before Brazil’s pressure paid dividends and the
opener arrived in stunning style on 20 minutes.

Barcelona’s record signing picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area
and in trademark fashion bent the ball crashing in off Sommer’s far post.

Neymar looked bright despite his lack of match practice as he teased the
Swiss defence provoking yellow cards for Stephan Lichtsteiner, Fabian Schar
and Valon Behrami.

However, Brazil failed to build on their lead as Thiago Silva and Jesus
headed off target from dangerous corners and were made to pay early in the
second-half.

Switzerland had offered barely any attacking threat before levelling when
Zuber took advantage of a gaping hole in the heart of the Brazilian defence
to head home Shaqiri’s corner.

Forced back onto the front foot, Brazil turned to Neymar for a moment of
inspiration but he could only blast into the side-netting before Coutinho
sliced wide with a much simpler opportunity than the one from which he opened
the scoring.

Brazil were unhappy that Zuber wasn’t penalised for a slight push on
Miranda for the equaliser and felt hard done by again when Jesus tumbled
under a challenge from Manuel Akanji inside the area with Mexican referee
Cesar Ramos unmoved.

Tite’s men ended as they had begun with a series of chances for a late
winner as Neymar and Roberto Firmino headed straight at Sommer before Miranda
dragged a shot inches wide.

And deep into stoppage time Schar’s outstretched leg turned a goalbound
effort from Silva wide as Switzerland held out for a vital point.

 

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