A second-half equalizer from Steven Zuber canceled out a sensational first-half strike from Phillipe Coutinho as Brazil’s World Cup challenge stumbles at the first hurdle inside Rostov Arena.
In the final minutes, Brazil, the tournament hosts four years ago, piled the pressure on Swiss ‘keeper Yann Sommer’s goalmouth, which had led a charmed life up to then with strong Swiss defense. Despite Brazil’s late pounding, the backs and goalie held out, and Zuber’s 50th minute header from a Shaqiri corner proved enough to rescue a famous point for the European side.
Switzerland will count themselves as fortunate as Zuber appeared to push Brazilian defender Miranda in the back before rising to power a close-range header past Allison. However, referee Cesar Arturo Ramos didn’t find any fault in the goal despite the wave of Brazilian protests.
Brazil started the better side and capitalized on their early advantage when Coutinho lit up Rostov-on-Don in the 20th minute, bending a shot into the top corner from the edge of the area to send the Brazilian fans into raptures. It was a sensational strike from the former Liverpool man but would prove to be their sole breakthrough in the face of a resilient Swiss defense.
Switzerland managed just one shot in the first half but they scored shortly after the restart, when Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner was met by a thunderous header from inside the six-yard box by midfielder Zuber, who gave Allison no chance from point blank range.
The strike was clouded in controversy, however, as replays appeared to show the Swiss player pushing Brazilian defender Miranda from behind before his header, but neither the Mexican referee nor the watching VAR officials disputed the goal’s legitimacy.
Neymar, the player on whose shoulders so much of Brazil’s World Cup hopes rest, struggled to make an impact on the game and often came up second best in a series of duels with Valon Behrami, the Swiss player tasked with being his shadow throughout much of the game.
Despite managing 21 shots in the 90 minutes, with many of those coming as they laid siege to the Swiss goal towards the end, Brazil couldn’t break down their opponents’ defense despite a concerted effort to up the game’s tempo in the final moments.
Miranda, Augusto and Firmino –who came on for the ineffective Gabriel Jesus– all went close towards the end, but Sommer and his center-back pairing of Manuel Akanji and Fabian Schar proved to be an impenetrable barrier, as Switzerland held on to claim a famous point against the five-time cup winners.