Brazil ended their pre-World Cup campaign with a thumping win of 3-0 over Austria in an international friendly on Monday. The Selecao attack consisting of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho have looked in fine fettle of late and could be expected to give the Switzerland defense a tough time when they meet in their WC 2018 opener on June 17. Brazil qualified for Russia 2018 in emphatic fashion by topping the South American zone with a clear 10-point lead over next-best Uruguay. They have lost in just once in their previous 18 games in all forms of competitions. Apart from the usual suspects in the attacking quartet of Neymar-Firmino-Coutinho-Jesus, there are others like Paulinho and Douglas Costa who will stake a claim in the starting XI in future games. The Brazilian defense too has functioned admirably conceding just a solitary goal in the international friendlies played during the run-up to the World Cup. In Alisson, who plays for Italian club Roma, they may have found a genuine world-class goalkeeper after a long time, thus plugging a long-time weakness they had in that area.
All in all, it looks unlikely that the Swiss have the required firepower to breach the Brazilian defence. Switzerland qualified for the WC 2018 from a very weak group that had teams like Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra. Although they won 9 of the 10 games they played in the tournament they managed just 23 goals, which is low by any standards considering the poor quality of opposition they were up against.The defense that has center-backs like Nico Elvedi (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Johan Djourou (Antalyaspor), the very experienced Stephan Lichtsteiner (Arsenal) and RomanBurki (Borussia Dortmund) at the goal look unlikely to stem the potential wave of Brazilian attacks. For the Swiss, the only names that could create an impact are XherdanShaqiri (Stoke City), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) and striker Josip Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach). It’s the powerful long-range shooting that Shaqiri or Xhaka sometimes resort to, is something the Selecao will have to watch out for. The Swiss will aim to remain tight at the back for most of the game and look for opportunities in counter-attacks.
But all said and done, it’s the Brazilians who look the clear favorites to take the game at the Rostov Arena.
Switzerland have managed to get into the World Cup only five times in the last 13 editions including this one in Russia, but have done so successively on four occasions starting 2006, which is indeed a marked improvement compared to the decades preceding that. They also made it to the Round of 16 in 2006 and 2014 where they narrowly lost to Argentina 0-1 in extra-time.
Brazil to Win, Best Odds 4/9
Neymar to Score, Best Odds 10/11
HT/FT – Draw, Brazil – Best Odds 3/1
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