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FIFA World Cup 2018: Profligate Brazil held by stubborn Switzerland

Brazil paid for their failure to kill the game off when Steven Zuber powered home an equalizer from Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner five minutes after the break.

Brazil’s bid for a sixth World Cup got off to a slow start as Switzerland withstood an early onslaught to snatch a 1-1 draw in Rostov-on-Don. On a day when holders Germany were shocked 1-0 by Mexico, Brazil’s tag as pre-tournament favorites 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 equalizer 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.

Coutinho had been handed a central role behind Neymar, in what was to be his first competitive game after four months. Gabriel Jesus and Willian also featured in a line-up filled with attacking intent from coach Tite.

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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.

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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 defense 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 leveling when Zuber took advantage of a gaping hole in the heart of the Brazilian defense 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 was unhappy that Zuber wasn’t penalized for a slight push on Miranda for the equalizer 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.

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