Brazil and Switzerland faced off after 68 years, and just like their previous meeting, the match yet again ended in a draw. Brazil looked set to demolish the Swiss after a stunning shot by Coutinho, but some resolute defending by Switzerland saw the underdogs avoid defeat and hold on to a well-deserved draw. Brazil started off well, but switched off for the larger part of the game, playing complacently most of the time. By the time they woke up, it was all too late and Switzerland were ready to thwart everything that was thrown at them.
Coach Tite fielded an attack-heavy squad with Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Coutinho and Willian forming the diamond attack. Incidentally, only four of the players who featured in the Brazilian squad when they kicked off their World Cup campaign in 2016 made it to the World Cup Finals. The only time Brazil and Switzerland faced each other was way back in 1950 when Brazil hosted the World Cup Finals. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.
Both teams came into the match boasting good group stage statistics. Switzerland were unbeaten in their opening games in each of their previous four World Cup Finals. Brazil, on the other hand, had won 16 of their last 18 opening games at the World Cup. In fact, the last time Brazil lost an opening game was in 1934, where they lost 1-3 against Spain.
Both teams were sketchy at the start, with built-up play failing to make a solid impact in the final third. Brazil’s first real chance came in the 11th minute, when Paulinho missed a sitter after Neymar’s low cross from the left of the box deflected into his path. Brazil came back yet again in the 18th minute, with Neymar flicking the ball to Coutinho who sent it through to Gabriel Jesus, but his low cross was played close to Sommer, who collected it comfortably. But the five-time champions nailed it just a minute later when Coutinho curled one into the inside of the far post. It was the kind of goal you would expect of Coutinho, and it is for this very shot-hitting prowess that Barcelona paid a bomb for.
Brazil looked comfortable on the ball, and more importantly, off it as well. The South American giants were composed and kept their shape even when Switzerland attacked. Neither side gave any clear chance to the other. In all fairness, the sole goal in the first half was a moment of sheer brilliance by Coutinho than a defensive lapse from Switzerland. Lichsteiner was the first person to go into the referee’s book, after a foul on Neymar, who has, in recent times, made it a specialty to draw fouls. In fact, drawing fouls has been Neymar’s Achilles heels of sort, having been booked six times in qualifying.
Brazil looked in danger of being complacent, happy to sit back and play the game out. Switzerland, on the other hand, found it hard to make any serious impact in the Brazilian half of the pitch, with their only real chance in the first half coming from Dzemaili early on.
Switzerland started the second half with much more intent, keen to avoid a defeat. Casemiro was booked in the 47th minute for a foul on Dzemaili. Brazil’s complacency was exposed in the 50th minute when Seferovic’s through pass to Dzemaili almost made it, but was crucially intercepted by Marcelo. But the five-time champions soon paid the price a few seconds later when Zuber headed a poorly defended corner past Alisson Becker. The Brazilians complained about a push by Zuber on Miranda, but the goal stood. Shaqiri’s in-swinging corner sailed over the Brazilian defenders, who stood rooted to the spot.
Brazil looked set to strike back with Coutinho firing two shots in the space of two seconds in the 57th minute which was followed by another one from Neymar, but it hit the side-netting. Three minutes later, Casemiro took another shot but it was skied and that was it for Casemiro for the night, who was immediately substituted for Fernandinho. Quite unlike the Swiss, they got more physical with Schar and Behrami both going into the book in the space of three minutes for fouls on Neymar. Brazil stepped up their attack, Neymar finding Coutinho in the left of the box in the 70th minute, but the Barcelona man hit wide off the post. Three minutes later, Jesus was brought down in the box, but calls for a penalty fell on deaf ears as play continued. Gabriel Jesus was then replaced by Firmino who got his first chance in the 82nd minute from a tight angle but could only hammer it over the bar. Neymar, who failed to make any concrete impact on the game, headed a cross from Willian straight at Sommer, who was thankful to collect it comfortably. Brazil almost broke through the Switzerland’s defence in the 90th minute when Neymar’s free-kick was headed towards goal by Firmino, drawing a save from Sommer. With five minutes added on, Miranda missed a sitter after a corner was cleared into his path following a deflection.
It was an extraordinary night of football with the underdogs coming out on top—first Mexico beating defending champions Germany and then Switzerland holding an attack-heavy Brazil to a draw. This World Cup is wide open.