Rostov, June 16 (IANS) Brazil’s position as favourites to win the 2018 FIFA World Cup will be under test when they kick off their campaign against Switzerland here on Sunday.
The Brazilians travel to Russia following a convincing 3-0 victory against Austria a week ago as Neymar banished any doubts about the injury which brought his campaign with Paris Saint Germain to a premature end, reports Xinhua news agency.
He scored a quality goal with trademark stepover included, but Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho also highlighted the depth of attacking talent available to coach Tite, whose side kicks off in Russia on the back of the best run of results ever for the Brazilians going into a World Cup.
Against Austria, Tite used Chelsea forward Willian to accompany Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho. Willian will probably start again here, leaving Tite to decide whether Fernandinho or Paulinho partners Casemiro in central midfield.
Marcelo will provide attacking flare from left back, while Dani Alves’ injury means Danilo will be given the chance on the right. Meanwhile everything points to Thiago Silva partnering Joao Miranda in central defence, with Marquinhos likely to miss out, and Allison in goal amid rumours of a move from AS Roma to Real Madrid.
The Swiss were slightly unlucky to finish behind Portugal in their qualifying group but are currently sixth in the FIFA world rankings with coach Vladimir Petkovic forging a united squad from a group of players from a host of different ethnic backgrounds.
Petkovic stressed the importance of unity among his players when he said that although he hadn’t selected the most talented 23 Swiss players to go to Russia, he had chosen “the best squad”.
Their results coming into the tournament have also been good, with a 2-0 win over Japan following a battling 1-1 draw away to Spain on June 3.
The Spain match showed the Swiss can soak up a lot of pressure and keep their shape when they don’t have the ball, which will be important too on Sunday.
Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji are likely to play in central defence and there is a chance Johan Djourou could also start.
Stephen Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez, who goes into the match with two goals in two games, will be the full backs with Granit Xhaka and Valon Behrami in midfield, while up front Xherdan Shakiri and Breel Embolo will provide pace on the break.
If the Swiss can hang on until halftime they have a chance of springing a surprise, but if Brazil take an early lead it could be a matter of the Swiss hanging on to ensure their goal difference doesn’t take a battering ahead of more accessible rivals such as Serbia and Mexico.