Football: World Cup favourites Brazil suffer first night nerves in Swiss stalemate

Switzerland's Steven Zuber scores a goal for his country during the match against Brazil, at the Rostov Arena, on June 18, 2018.
Switzerland's Steven Zuber scores a goal for his country during the match against Brazil, at the Rostov Arena, on June 18, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS
Brazil's coach Tite gestures during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Brazil and Switzerland at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don, on June 17, 2018.
Brazil's coach Tite gestures during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Brazil and Switzerland at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don, on June 17, 2018.PHOTO: AFP
Brazil's star striker Neymar falls during the match against Switzerland at the Rostov Arena.
Brazil's star striker Neymar falls during the match against Switzerland at the Rostov Arena. PHOTO: AFP
Switzerland's forward Breel Embolo (left) and Brazil's defender Miranda compete for the ball during the game.
Switzerland's forward Breel Embolo (left) and Brazil's defender Miranda compete for the ball during the game. PHOTO: AFP
Fans of Brazil react after Switzerland equalised, during a broadcast of the World Cup 2018 football match on a big outdoor screen in the Alzirao neighborhood, in Rio de Janeiro, on June 17, 2018.
Fans of Brazil react after Switzerland equalised, during a broadcast of the World Cup 2018 football match on a big outdoor screen in the Alzirao neighborhood, in Rio de Janeiro, on June 17, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

ROSTOV-ON-DON (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 (June 17).

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 (June 22).

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.