Brazil will be looking to avoid dropping any points against Switzerland in their opening game in Group E of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Brazil had no hiccups in the CONMEBOL qualifiers. The Samba boys led by manager Tite had a new energetic look about themselves. It is credit to Tite and the players that Brazil became the first nation other than hosts Russia to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Switzerland, on the other hand, had to endure a mild heartbreak in the group stage of the European qualifiers for the World Cup. Pitted against Portugal in Group B, the group was a two-horse race and the Swiss almost secured direct qualification. Switzerland needed to avoid defeat against Portugal in the final match to advance directly to the World Cup, but failed to do so.
With the two nations equal on points (27), Portugal went through with a better goal difference. Switzerland then had to go through the knockout phase, with a decider against Northern Ireland, one which they nervily won 1-0 over two legs.
The Swiss though, are one of the top ranked nations going into the World Cup (6th) and will be looking to do some serious damage in Russia.
Brazil’s warmup games have been rather easy, with comfortable wins over Croatia and Austria. Switzerland, on the other hand, drew against Spain before recording a quickfire 2-0 win over Japan.
Both Brazil and Switzerland will be eager to get some points on board from the get go. We take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Fred is set to sit out the opening tie of the World Cup. The to-be Manchester United superstar is nursing an injury sustained during training. Tite has confirmed his starting eleven for the match against Switzerland, putting faith in the experience of Thiago Silva and Miranda in central defence.
Danilo will be hoping to offset the loss of Dani Alves, who was ruled out of the World Cup through injury, with the Manchester City star confirmed to be starting as right-back.
Fred missing out means Paulinho and Casemiro both start in a midfield three alongside Philippe Coutinho. The front three of Willian, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar was expected and Tite seems to have gone with the tried and trusted for the first match at the World Cup.
Confirmed Lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Paulinho, Casemiro, Coutinho; Willian, Jesus, Neymar
While Vladmir Petkovic is yet to confirm his starting eleven, there are visible signs of confirmation of almost a majority of starting positions. Ricardo Rodriguez and Stephan Lichtsteiner will be the go-to guys for Switzerland out wide in defence.
The duo is expected to maraud further up the pitch at every opportunity, with Petkovic likely to direct the players to look for the overlap of the two full-backs. Fabian Schar is a confirmed starter in central defence, but there is a toss up between Nico Elvedi and Manuel Akanji for the other spot. The Borussia Dortmund defender is likely to be preferred ahead of Elvedi though.
Valon Behrami has started the friendlies so far and looks a done deal to be one half of the base of the midfield pivot. Granit Xhaka should partner Behrami at the said position.
Xherdan Shaqiri will be looking to treat the World Cup as an audition as well. Haris Seferovic should start upfront as the leader of the Swiss attack. But, the player does more than just that, with his role more as a defensive forward.
Remo Freuler will likely retain his spot in the number 10 role. But, the left wing does pose a problem for Petkovic. Steven Zuber though, should get the nod over the likes of Breel Embolo and others, who are not as natural in the said position as Zuber.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez; Behrami, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Freuler, Zuber; Seferovic
1. Brazil are unbeaten in their last 12 group stage matches at the World Cup.
2. Brazil have topped their group at every World Cup since 1982 and have not failed to progress from the group stage since their exit in 1966.
3. Switzerland have lost just 1 of their last 17 matches, winning 14 of them.
4. Xherdan Shaqiri is the last Swiss player to score a hat-trick at the World Cup, in the match against Honduras in 2014.
5. Neymar is tied with Romario at third on the all-time goalscorers list for Brazil, with 55 goals.
Player to Watch
We have already seen two brilliant goalkeeping displays so far at the World Cup, both coming from the less favoured side. Australia’s Mathew Ryan and Iceland’s Hannes Thor Halldorsson were up to the task. And, like the aforementioned teams, Switzerland, despite their prowess, will go into the match against Brazil as the less favoured side.
Brazil’s attacking quality means the Swiss will have to endure a barrage of attacks on their goal. And Sommer will have to be up for it in order to secure a result against the Samba Boys.
Brazil 2-1 Switzerland
There are ominous signs of Brazil being one of the favourites for the World Cup in Russia. Tite has managed to form a formidable unit with enough tactical depth to counter most situations. But, Switzerland are no pushovers, as is evidenced by their FIFA World Ranking.
Switzerland are likely to run Brazil close. But, the class and difference of quality in the final third will be the difference on the day, with Brazil likely to come out with all three points, albeit with a narrow margin.