ROSTOV-ON-DON (Reuters) - After failing to live up to pre-tournament hype with a disappointing 1-1 draw in their World Cup opener against Switzerland, Brazil need to quickly find a key to unlock opponents happy to sit back and defend for most of the game.
The five-times winners showed encouraging signs in the first half of Sunday’s game as they took the initiative, although their only way past Vladimir Petkovic’s disciplined outfit was thanks to a stunning long-range strike from Philippe Coutinho.
Brazil’s frequent attempts to play into the penalty area were repeatedly thwarted by a resolute Swiss defence as a nervous-looking Neymar failed to shine, leaving man-of-the-match Coutinho to do all the work in engineering attacks.
They will face a similar challenge finding space in attack against their next opponents Costa Rica, who play with a five-man defence and were only beaten 1-0 by Serbia due to an outstanding free kick from Aleksandar Kolarov.
Coach Tite said his side suffered from anxiety during the game, the first time Brazil have not won a World Cup opener since 1978, urging them to keep their heads when they got into shooting positions.
“We need to stay cool when we shoot and be more precise,” he told reporters.
A lot of the focus after the game was on whether Brazil defender Joao Miranda had been fouled by Steven Zuber when he headed in Switzerland’s 50th minute equaliser, while a decision to deny Gabriel Jesus a penalty was also heavily scrutinised.
An equally big problem for Brazil was coping with frequent tactical fouls meted out by the Swiss, particularly on Neymar, which interrupted their attempts to create attacks.
Miranda said the squad were not too concerned by their underwhelming start, however, pointing out that his side were in good company after Germany lost to Mexico and Argentina and Spain were held to draws in their first games.
“The draw will not shake us, some good teams have started the tournament losing, we’re focussed on our next game, where I’m sure we will play well and go all out for the win,” he said.
Striker Jesus said the side did not need to change too much for their next game.
“We need to play in the same way against Costa Rica, we played well, especially considering it was our first game, but unfortunately we couldn’t win. Life goes on. We drew, we didn’t lose,” the Manchester City forward said.
“Now we must keep our heads down, as we want to win our next game.”
Reporting by Richard Martin