Our first game at this World Cup.
Brazil vs. Switzerland
Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don, June 17, 2018
Kickoff: 2:00 PM EDT / 3:00 PM BRT / 6:00 PM GMT
US TV: FS1, Telemundo
Starting Lineup: Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo (C); Casemiro, Paulinho, Coutinho; Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar.
Zetona’s Opposition Profile™:
Current Form: In the last two years, Switzerland has only lost one game, against Portugal at the end of World Cup qualifying. There’s two big caveats to that statement: one, I’m not counting their loss on penalties to Poland at the Euros; two, most of their results during that time came in a very easy World Cup qualifying group that featured Andorra, Latvia, Hungary, and the Faroe Islands. Still, they’ve shown that they can confound difficult opponents: they drew 0-0 with France at the Euros, beat Portugal 2-0 at home in qualifying, and recently pegged back Spain for a 1-1 friendly draw. Their last three friendlies, against three fellow World Cup teams, form a group stage record that any team would kill to have: 6-0 against Panama, 1-1 against Spain, 2-0 against Japan.
Style: While they can occasionally turn on the attacking flair, Switzerland’s primary weapon is their defense; they’re hard to break down, and have shown for years that they can defend a narrow lead against an opposition onslaught. In turn, this means they can struggle if they fall behind. In the last round of World Cup qualifying, they faced Portugal in a straight fight to see which country would qualify directly and which would have to go through the playoff. The Swiss only needed a draw to qualify automatically, having won at home to the Portuguese earlier on. But they created little and once Portugal found a breakthrough, through a Johan Djourou own goal, they never looked like being able to equalize. Portugal ultimately won 2-0, the one blot on Switzerland’s unbeaten record.
Recent World Cup Record: Switzerland are in their fourth straight World Cup and eleventh ever. They’ve never managed to reach a fifth game, but they have a recent history of stifling teams that ultimately made the final. They drew 0-0 with France in their first game in 2006, stunningly defeated Spain 1-0 in their 2010 opener but didn’t make it out of the group, and narrowly lost to Argentina in the 2014 round of 16, only going behind deep in extra time and then hitting the post with almost the last action of the game. On the other hand, they also lost 5-2 to France in the 2014 group stage, though they’re generally too defensively strong to make a repeat of that likely.
Brazil’s Last Game Against Them: We played Switzerland in 2013, in our first game after storming to victory in the Confederations Cup, and lost 1-0. We created some decent chances to score, but the Swiss gave as good as they got, and after going behind to an all-time comedy own goal from Dani Alves (one of those moments that kind of makes me glad he’s not in the squad, even if Danilo is his replacement), we didn’t create anything else of note. Highlights here.
We’ve only played Switzerland once at the World Cup, back in the group stage in 1950. A side that won most of their games by massive scorelines could only manage a 2-2 draw—the only points they dropped other than against Uruguay in the Maracanazo.
Opposing Player To Watch: Xherdan Shaqiri. The Stoke City winger is a player capable of those magic, something-out-of-nothing moments that turn a game on its head. He scored one of the best goals in the 2014 World Cup and maybe the best goal, hands-down, of Euro 2016. If anybody can give Switzerland a shock lead out of nowhere, it’s him.
Prediction: Brazil 2-0 Switzerland. Brazil typically starts fairly slowly at the World Cup, usually winning their opening game but rarely by more than a goal. That’s likely to continue as Switzerland will look to frustrate us, but I think we’ll be able to unlock them with some magic from Neymar or Coutinho. I was going to predict a 1-0 win, but I think Tite will go for the second goal to really ensure the result (as he’s tended to do), and that we’ll take the lead early enough that it makes sense to go for a second.