World Cup

Swiss hold favorites Brazil after Coutinho stunner

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil failed to win their opening game of a World Cup for the first time since 1978 as Switzerland earned a valuable draw in Rostov-on-Don.

The five-time champions, so often lauded for their flair, failed to sparkle after Philippe Coutinho's superbly curled opener on 20 minutes.

Tite's side - with Gabriel Jesus and Willian alongside Neymar in a front three - could offer only fleeting moments of fluid play and Steven Zuber's header from a corner earned the Swiss a deserved point.

Brazil may point to a push by Zuber to free him from his marker but the fact Coutinho's strike remained their only effort on target until 77 minutes points to their struggles in the final third.

The draw brings to an end Brazil's run of nine wins in opening World Cup fixtures, and both sides now trail Group E leaders Serbia, who beat Costa Rica earlier on Sunday.

Neymar's header - straight into the hands of Yann Sommer with minutes to go - summed up a Brazil performance lacking in cutting edge. Indeed, only in the dying stages did they look desperate to win, with substitute Roberto Firminio's header forcing a save and defender Miranda blasting wide.

Buoyed by a run of form showing just one loss in 21 matches and the return from injury of the talismanic Neymar, expectation is high that Brazil can banish painful memories of a 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany on home soil four years ago.

Only Marcelo started in Russia from their line-up on that humiliating night, and one defeat in 18 qualifying matches does indeed point to a team somewhat healed.

Coutinho - chosen as the creative force in a three-man midfield also comprising Paulinho and Casemiro - stepped up to increase Brazilian positivity with a sublime effort from 20 yards which went in off the post, such was its accuracy.

It should have served as a catalyst, but with Neymar constantly harassed by the excellent Valon Behrami, clear-cut chances were hard to come by.

Coutinho chested down but fired wide after Zuber had levelled and only a clever Fabian Schar flick in his own goalmouth denied a late winner. But the fact Switzerland had 45% of the ball underlines how they remained competitive throughout.

In a World Cup where sides have shown promise without being scintillating, Tite and the passionate Brazilian public are unlikely to be too worried at this stage, and Switzerland are after all the world's sixth-best side on ranking.

But those hoping to see the free-flowing football Brazil are revered for will hope they find a better rhythm against Costa Rica on Friday, and that Neymar and those around him apply from the outset the late intensity they showed here.





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