Favourites Brazil were on Sunday forced to a thrilling 1-1 draw by Switzerland in their opening game of the 2018 World Cup.
Played before a lively crowd in the Russian city of Rostov, the Selecao began the game in a bristling form, with their forward line of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Willian and Phillipe Coutinho interchanging passes and positions amongst themselves.
And they duly got the lead in the 20th minute through a sublime effort by Coutinho. The Barcelona midfielder received the ball on the edge of the Swiss penalty box, beat his marker, drifted inside from the left wing and released a cannon from about 2o metres past goalkeeper Yann Sommer.
The goal, however, did not deter the Swiss team as they grew more confident and got more involved in the game. Led by the skilful Xherdan Shaqiri, the Europeans began to enjoy to more possession, pushed more players forward and stretched the Brazilians out wide.
The Samba Boys went into half-time with the lead but it was the Swiss team who resumed the second half in a much more purposeful manner.
Their more determined approach proved vital for them as they equalised five minutes after the restart through a goal by an unmarked Steven Zuber in the box. A Shaqiri corner kick was met by Zuber, who poked a powerful header past Alisson. The Brazilian players had questioned whether the goal should have stood after Zuber was seen to have pushed defender Miranda, but referee Cesar Ramos from Mexico waved off their contestations.
Despite a flurry of substitutions by coach Tite which included the entrance of Roberto Firmino, Brazil’s much-touted attack were unable to break down a well-drilled and compact Switzerland team. Firmino had two late chances; the first one which he blasted the ball over the crossbar from a tight position, and the second- a strong header which was expertly saved by Sommer.
Brazil were lucky not to have conceded a second goal as the Swiss team almost capitalised on their undisciplined foray forward in search of a winner with their quick counter-attack.
The result leaves Serbia at the top of Group E with three points after their slender 1-0 win over Costa Rica earlier in the day. Brazil and Switzerland are placed second and third respectively, while Costa Rica are rooted bottom with no point.