In a World Cup performance that won’t calm many nerves among its supporters, Brazil’s outstanding group of attackers produced quite a few scoring opportunities but only one goal in a disappointing 1-1 draw with Switzerland.
Neymar, looking to prove that he was still dangerous coming off the broken foot he sustained in February, turned in a largely forgettable performance puncuated by a few bright moments in attack.
It seemed like his off night would be of little importance, however, when Philippe Coutinho sent a gorgeous, curling shot off the goalpost and into the net in the 20th minute to give Brazil a lead that it seemed eager to build upon.
But with a disciplined defensive showing and a few forays into the front by Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland held firm. And in the 50th minute, a Brazilian defensive lapse (and a bit of a shove) on a corner kick gave the Swiss the moment they needed, with Steven Zuber nodding a ball past Alisson from right in front of the net.
Hoping to avoid becoming the first Brazilian squad since 1978 to fail to win its World Cup opener, the South Americans steadily cranked up the pressure and peppered the Swiss goal with shots, finishing with 21 shots to Switzerland’s 6.
But too few (five) of Brazil’s shots were on target, and Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer came up with several impressive stops, including a diving save of Roberto Firmino’s header just before stoppage time, to preserve the result.
Brazil on Wednesday faces Serbia, the current Group E leader (as we all expected!) after its win over Costa Rica, who will take on Switzerland in a crucial group-stage match the same day.
95’: DRAW! Brazil’s Late Charge Comes Up Short
After a desperate moment of Swiss defending on a free kick and then a corner kick, the final whistle rescues them. Brazil will take away a disappointing point from its first match at the World Cup after failing to put away numerous quality chances. Switzerland, on the other hand, has emerged from its toughest match of the group stage with a very encouraging point.
90’: What a Save!
Yann Sommer has maybe his best moment yet as Firmino gets a strong header from just yards away off a free kick. But Sommer gets down to his right with incredible agility to push the ball off to the right of the post. Moments later, Sommer is spared as Miranda puts a strong shot through traffic to the left of the goal.
88’: Neymar Denied Again
Neymar has another great opportunity as he bursts through two Swiss defenders to meet a cross, but his header goes straight toward Yann Sommer, who will likely be under pretty heavy pressure for these last few minutes. But Switzerland is holding with impressive organization.
84’: Nice Save
A giant red balloon made its way into the Brazilian penalty area but was popped by Alisson before it could record a shot on goal.
82’: Brazil Misses Another Chance
Roberto Firmino, who came on a few minutes ago to replace Gabriel Jesus, got his first look at goal as a long ball squeaked through into the penalty area. But his volley goes well high, and Brazil is still looking for a goal to break through here.
78’: Neymar Shoots! He Does Not Score
Brazil has been pushing a bit, and Fernandinho took a try from about 35 yards out that sails quite high. A minute later, Neymar put his first shot on target from about 22 yards out, but it was handled easily at the near post by Yann Sommer.
74’: No Penalty?
Brazil is shouting for a penalty after Gabriel Jesus received a well-placed pass in the area and tried to turn against Manuel Akanji but fell down as he tried to do so. Akanji certainly was making some contact with Jesus but the referee decides there wasn’t enough there.
68’: Another Yellow Card for the Swiss
Neymar’s on the ground again, and the referee is pulling out another yellow card for a Swiss defender. This time it’s Valon Behrami.
66’: Brazil Threatening
Another Swiss defender resorts to less-than-legal means to stop Neymar. Fabian Schär received a yellow card for grabbing and holding onto Neymar’s shirt as he tried to dribble into the area. Brazil can make nothing of the ensuing free kick, though they’ve continued to ping the ball around the attacking third and look quite threatening at the moment.
60’: Fernandinho in for Brazil
First substitution of the game is Fernandinho, the 33-year-old Manchester City veteran, coming in for Casemiro, who had picked up a yellow card, in Brazil’s midfield.
56’: No V.A.R.?
There will most likely be more than a few people wondering whether that goal should have merited a video review, but the video assistant referee clearly didn’t deem the shove by Zuber to be serious enough to change the call. Here’s a refresher on how V.A.R. is supposed to work at the World Cup.
50’: GOAL!!! The Swiss Strike Back
All level! Steven Zuber scores with a header off a corner kick to make it 1-1. Zuber found himself in a pocket of space just on the six-yard line and winds up with a very straightforward finish past the Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson. Zuber appeared to get a bit of a push in the back of the Brazilian centerback Miranda, but there was no foul called or VAR review, so we have a tie game.
46’: We’re Back
No substitutes yet for either side. Switzerland needs a goal to avoid joining Costa Rica, which lost to Serbia this morning, at the bottom of Group E.
Brazil certainly was the superior side in the first half, though Philippe Coutinho’s moment of brilliance is the only thing separating the teams on the scoreboard. After his goal in the 20th minute, Brazil indeed took its foot off the gas just slightly, content to control the game out of the back. Switzerland has not managed much of a sustained threat, but they’ve had moments and still look capable of equalizing in the second half if they can somehow avoid conceding again against Brazil’s raft of dangerous attackers.
45+’: Brazil Almost Adds to Lead Before Half
Nearly another for Brazil! Thiago Silva, the centerback, found himself with a great look off a corner kick, but his header went just over the bar. Switzerland then got a free kick just inside Brazil’s half but failed to do anything meaningful with it, and the referee blows the whistle for halftime.
40’: Switzerland With a Chance
Steven Zuber got one of the better looks that Switzerland has seen all evening, receiving the ball just inside the left corner of the penalty area. He then proceeded to place his shot right into the cheekbone of Brazilian Thiago Silva, who appears to O.K. after staying on the ground for a moment. Brazil still very much in control, but Switzerland is pressuring.
31’: Yellow Card
Yellow card for Swiss right back Stephan Lichtsteiner for a rude little tug of Neymar’s collar, which brought him down outside the penalty area. That’s one way to defend Neymar. And the ensuing free kick is harmlessly cleared.
20’ GOAL!!! Brazil Up 1-0
Coutinho steals the spotlight with a wicked shot from outside the area on the left side, giving Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer no chance. A poor clearance from near the center of the penalty fell to Coutinho, the Barcelona star, who ripped a beautiful, curling shot that bounced off the far post and in. Brazil is ahead, but plenty more goals can be expected if they continue playing like this.
15’: More Chances for Brazil
Brazil earned its first dangerous free kick, about 25 yards out and dead center in front of goal. But Neymar put the ball right into the Swiss wall. Speaking of walls, that seems to be Switzerland’s defensive strategy at the moment, as Brazil has kept them pinned back since the first five minutes or so.
11’: Brazil Applying Pressure
That was nearly the first for Brazil. Coutinho and Neymar played with the Swiss defense on the left side, and Neymar played a tantalizing cross into Paulinho, who couldn’t make good contact and sent his shot just a few inches to the right of the goal.
6’: Good Start for Switzerland
Switzerland has come out surprisingly strong, grabbing the majority of possession in the first five minutes and hitting the first shot. But Willian provided a reminder of Brazil’s potency by rifling a lazer of a cross in front of the goal, though no teammates were nearby.
1’: We’re Underway!
We’re now live in Rostov-On-Don, with Brazil wearing its classic yellow shirts and blue shorts, with Switzerland in red shirts and white shorts.
0’: Brazil Needs to Loosen Up
The national anthems are underway, and for all the talk of Brazil being much more loose coming into this World Cup compared to 2014, they look like a pretty stoic bunch during the anthem (Marcelo, though, looks like he’s having fun as usual).
Brazil Looking for Redemption
Last time we saw Brazil in a World Cup, well, let’s just not talk about that. There are six players on the current Brazilian squad that were also part of the team that was embarrassed by Germany in 2014, but this year’s edition expects nothing less than to win it all. All of Neymar’s vertebrae seem to be intact (though he sustained a broken foot in February), there’s a new manager on the bench, and the team seems to be firing on all cylinders, as evidenced by a 1-0 victory in a friendly at Germany in March.
Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Paulinho, Casemiro, Coutinho; Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar
Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schär, Akanji, Rodríguez; Behrami, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Dzemaili, Zuber; Seferovic
Brazil vs. Switzerland Top Story Lines
• Brazil actually struggled in qualifying initially, earning just nine points from six games and sitting in sixth place (out of 10) in the South American qualifying group. So the Brazilian federation fired its manager, Dunga, and brought in Tite, and the Brazilian squad started to look like the one we all know and love: going unbeaten and becoming the first national team to book a spot in Russia (beside Russia itself).
• Switzerland’s route to Russia was a bit more fraught and featured quite a bit more controversy. The Swiss finished behind Portugal in their European group, and went on to play Northern Ireland in a two-leg playoff. The lone goal across both matches came after a dubious penalty call against Northern Ireland after a ball appeared to bounce off the back of defender Corry Evans. Switzerland converted the penalty and advanced on a 1-0 aggregate score, leaving Northern Ireland fuming. Noted Switzerland supporter Roger Federer, though, found it amusing.
• Brazil is a popular pick to win this tournament, and shouldn’t have any trouble escaping this group. A 1-0 win at Germany in March suggests that Brazil can take on the European elite.
• This is the fourth straight World Cup that Switzerland has qualified for, but it has not made it past the Round of 16 since 1954. Can it break its habit of qualifying for major tournaments, emerging from the group stage, and then being knocked out in a mind-numbingly dull game?
• All eyes will be on Neymar, the 26-year-old Brazilian star. The Brazilian manager, Tite, doesn’t have a designated captain in an effort to emphasize unity, but this is undeniably Neymar’s team.
Some Pregame Reading
• A survey published this month by the Datafolha polling firm showed that 53 percent of Brazilians said they were not interested in the World Cup this year, the highest rate since the question was first asked in 1994