A day of shocks had an underwhelming finale in Rostov with Brazil stuttering to a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in Group A.
Philippe Coutinho’s stunning opener was cancelled out by a bullet header from Simon Zuber, whose team will be more than happy to escape with a point after a bruising encounter.
The pictures of sunken Seleçao faces said it all at the final whistle. Brazil dominated their opponents in this fixture, without ever truly threatening to overrun them.
Should an expectant nation start to worry?
Much of the pre-tournament bluster has been devoted to Neymar, who overcame a disastrous Super Noodles haircut to register a daunting performance.
He may have run into several blind alleys but he was also the best player on the pitch by a mile.
The Paris Saint-Germain star knows that a successful World Cup will bring him closer to the Ballon d’Or he craves.
If he continues in this vein, he could just propel his side all the way to the showpiece in Moscow.
The result might have been disappointing but Brazilian fans should be enthused by the performance.
Luck was the first ingredient in the Swiss performance, followed closely by an inspired display from Gladbach keeper Yann Sommer. The third was the referees’ failure to punish Zuber’s clear push on Miranda in the build-up to his goal.
Brazil were set up well, with Coutinho and Neymar impressing throughout. The Barcelona man’s eleventh in 37 games for his country was arguably his best, cutting in expertly to fire an effort well into the Swiss top corner.
Gabriel Jesus was quieter but the Sambamen’s strength-in-depth was apparent when 27-goal man Roberto Firmino stepped off the bench.
A tough start
This was always going to be Tite’s toughest game in Group E.
Switzerland are battle-hardened at international tournaments, specialists in nullifying more advanced opponents.
Vladimir Petkovic set his team up to frustrate with Haris Seferovic struggling gamely on scraps throughout.
Zuber’s goal gave them all the reason they needed to camp in their own half. Even then, Brazil had several chances to score a winner.
Despite their win over Costa Rica on Sunday, Serbia are unlikely to offer such stout resistance, whilst Los Ticos are a shadow of the side that drew so many admirers four years ago.
Tite will be disappointed with the end result but a clue about his sides’ renewed mindset was apparent during the national anthems.
There were no clenched jaws and bulging eyes here, replaced with a steely focus and, in some cases, even a few smiles.
Brazil’s most fatal flaw four years ago was to allow themselves to get caught up in the emotion and spectacle.
Against Switzerland, they were enthused and focused, channelling themselves in a productive way. It bodes well for the knockout stages, to which Brazil should still progress with comfort.
One point from one game is no disaster. Brazil are stronger, smarter, fitter and hungrier than they have been in decades.
Woe befall anyone that underestimates them this time around.
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