Rostov (Russia), June 18 (IANS) Switzerland came up with a gritty, fighting performance to hold title contenders Brazil 1-1 in a Group E match of the FIFA World Cup here on Sunday.
Both teams now have one point each.
Serbia are at the top of the group with three points, thanks to their victory over Costa Rica earlier in the day.
Brazil’s laboured efforts in their campaign opener continued this World Cup’s trend of big teams struggling to overcome lesser rated opponents.
Fellow title contenders Germany, Argentina and Spain have also failed to win their respective opening matches.
Even though former champions Uruguay and France enjoyed winning starts, they were forced to struggle before eking out narrow wins over relatively weaker opponents.
Brazil dominated the early stages of Sunday’s match but the talented Swiss team gradually found their rhythm and started to create moves off the counter.
Philippe Coutinho handed Brazil the lead with an in-swinging, dipping free-kick in the 20th minute.
Switzerland made a strong comeback after the break with Steven Zuber exploiting some loose marking to head in the equalizer off a corner in the 50th minute.
The goal seemed to rejuvenate the Europeans and they put the five-time world champions on to the back foot with some excellent attacking play.
The South Americans gradually regained their attacking rhythm but were repeatedly let down by the poor quality of their final pass.
The Swiss defence was extremely well organised and allowed very little space to the Brazil forwards.
The Europeans employed tight marking and some tough, physical defending to thwart the repeated Brazilian attacks.
The Swiss defenders were guilty of committing numerous cynical fouls on Brazil’s star forward Neymar throughout the game.
Brazil’s attacking talisman, who struggled to recover from a foot injury before the tournament, did his level best, but was left battered by repeated fouls.
The Swiss players tried everything — pulling Neymar’s jersey, body checks and even the good old boot to the leg — to stop the Brazil star.
The rest of the Brazil forward line also struggled to penetrate the well organised Swiss defence.
Although they did create several half chances, Brazil were let down by poor finishing on those occasions.
The Swiss were having finishing problems of their own at the other end of the pitch and failed to take advantage even though the Brazil defence allowed them time and space on several occasions.
One of Brazil’s best chances fell to Miranda a couple of minutes into second-half injury time.
But the defender fired his close range attempt narrowly wide of the post with Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer well and truly beaten.
Neymar had another chance to redeem a rather forgettable performance in the closing seconds when Brazil were awarded a free-kick just outside the Swiss penalty box.
But the former FC Barcelona star came up with yet another poor effort as the Swiss enjoyed an excellent start to their campaign.