Brazil suffers first-night nerves in Swiss stalemate

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia – Coach Tite blamed first-night nerves after Brazil's bid for a 6th World Cup got off to a rocky start as Switzerland withstood an early onslaught to snatch a 1-1 draw on Sunday, June 17.

On the day when defending champion Germany absorbed a shock 1-0 to Mexico, Brazil's tag as pre-tournament favorites 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 equalizer from Xherdan Shaqiri's corner 5 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." 

Upbeat

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 4 months, Gabriel Jesus and Willian in a line-up filled with attacking intent.

The 5-time world champions went about their task of erasing the memories of a 7-1 thrashing by Germany on home soil 4 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.

Yellow cards

Neymar looked bright despite his lack of match practice as he teased the Swiss defense 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 leveling when Zuber took advantage of a gaping hole in the heart of the Brazilian defense 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 was unhappy that Zuber wasn't penalized for a slight push on Miranda for the equalizer 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 goal-bound effort from Silva wide as Switzerland held out for a vital point. – Rappler.com