1. Brazil’s lone striker role up for grabs
Gabriel Jesus was chosen to lead the line by Brazil coach Tite, although he struggled to make an impact on the night. This Brazil starting line-up rarely changes with minimal tweaks to personnel and formation.
Roberto Firmino’s arrival on 79 minutes brought a more dangerous edge to Brazil’s attack, the Liverpool strike skewing a presentable chance late on.
In fairness to Jesus, he should have had a penalty midway through the second half but he looked worrying short of sharpness (not least when I’ve backed him for each way on the Golden Boot). This team is clearly built around the mercurial Neymar and offering a supportive, subservient role to their key man may be more suited to Firmino.
Don’t be surprised to see Firmino leading the line against Costa Rica on Friday.
2. Neymar’s fitness the elephant in the room
It feels like we’ve been here before. Only two days ago, Neymar’s national coach Tite, said:
“He is still not 100 per cent, but he is very privileged physically. He still has something to gain. It should happen sooner rather than later, hopefully”
If those words weren’t entirely convincing, then Neymar’s performance this evening added fuel to the speculation that the injury is more serious than we’re being told. He is set to miss training tomorrow with a ‘knock’.
He blustered through the early stages and showed some immaculate touches but fell into a common trap – trying to beat the opposition on his own. Despite meaning it as a compliment, Clive Tyldesley summed up the problem quite neatly:
“He almost passes as a last resort”
The Brazilian’s rope-a-dope style of play led to consistent petty fouls from Switzerland and his desire to embarrass defenders obviously doesn’t help his drive towards full fitness. He simply showboated too much here.
Four years ago Neymar tried and succeeded in carrying his country through the early stages of the tournament. The first match he missed through injury was obviously the 7-1 humiliation by Germany.
With some alarming signs of injury so far, Brazil had better hope he stays fit this time around.
3. Don’t underestimate the Swiss
Sitting in sixth place in the FIFA World Rankings, Swizerland were never going to be a pushover for the tournament favourites.
They have now lost only one of the last 23 international matches. Despite the dubious ranking system, that is some feat.
Haris Seferovic led the line resolutely as the Swiss inevitably had less of the possession. His side may lack the firepower to enter the final stages of the tournament, but qualification out of a tricky group also featuring Serbia and Costa Rica would be no great surprise.
It’s very early days but the second round match may well end up being Brazil vs Germany – massive incentive for the countries in their respective groups.