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MOSCOW, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - Neymar needs at least five matches to return to top form after a long injury layoff, but Brazil have not asked their talismanic forward to gamble on his fitness just to be improve their chances at the World Cup, coach Tite said on Thursday.

The five-times world champions drew their opening Group E game against Switzerland 1-1 and play their second match against Costa Rica in St Petersburg on Friday.

Neymar missed a chunk of the season with a fractured right foot and sprained ankle, but returned to play in Brazil's last two friendlies before the World Cup and started their first match of the tournament.

The 26-year-old has trained with the rest of the squad for two days in a row after sitting out Tuesday's session due to a sore ankle.

"It's about five matches, that's the minimum you need to be full on and he's already started the process," Tite told reporters. "There's evolution taking place, so don't worry.

"We want to win. It's a World Cup. But the coach is not going to risk a player's health or be dishonest to win. That's a price that is too high to pay."

The 57-year-old, known for his emphasis on the collective, also denied asking Neymar to curb his individual attacking instincts in order to serve the team better.

"It's not true. It didn't happen," he said. "All of the athletes have this responsibility of playing for the collective and also being individuals.

"I'm not going to take Neymar's initiative away from him. He is a genius... All of us have to help the team reach its potential but we have to respect individual characteristics. I'm not going to take that away from anybody."

Tite said he would name an unchanged starting line-up for the match against Costa Rica to give his players a chance to show their character and defended his policy of rotating captains through the tournament.

He also sprang to the defence of centre back Thiago Silva, who was heavily criticised during the last World Cup in Brazil but has been named skipper for Friday's match.

"If we took out everybody who was criticised in the last World Cup there would be nobody playing. We wouldn't even have a national team. And life and football are not like that," Tite said.

"There are a number of athletes who have the maturity and experience to take on the captaincy and Thiago is one of them."

SOCHI, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Brazil's draw with Switzerland has left them one game away from equalling their longest winless streak in the World Cup - a run of four matches without victory spanning the 1974 and 1978 tournaments.

Brazil lost their last two games at home in 2014, a 7-1 hammering by Germany in the semi-final followed by a 3-0 defeat by the Netherlands in the third-place playoff game.

After drawing 1-1 with the Swiss in their Group E opener, Brazil will have to beat Costa Rica on Friday if they want to avoid matching the 1970s barren run.

In 1974, the South Americans were beaten 2-0 by the Netherlands and 1-0 by Poland in successive matches.

That winless run continued in 1978 when they drew their first two games, 1-1 with Sweden and 0-0 with Spain.

They broke the streak with a 1-0 win over Austria but failed to win the tournament that year.

Brazil, who have won 17 of their 22 games under coach Tite, hope they can live up to their favourites billing when they face Costa Rica.

 

 

 

ROSTOV-ON-DON, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Switzerland were never regarded as one of the pre-tournament World Cup favourites but after they thwarted heavyweights Brazil with a gutsy 1-1 draw in their Group E opener late Sunday, they could be dreaming of a deep run in Russia.

Brazil took the lead thanks to a stunning Philippe Countinho first half strike but the Swiss refused to panic and equalised five minutes after the break when Steven Zuber rose high to head home from a corner.

Some of that fearlessness could be traced back to 2009, when the Swiss beat Brazil 1-0 on the way to becoming under-17 world champions with a side that contained Granit Xhaka, Ricardo Rodriguez and Haris Seferovic from the current senior squad.

The Brazil defeated in that quarter-final included Alisson, Casemiro, Coutinho and Neymar with all seven players from that clash featuring in Sunday’s game.

“I hope that people will take notice of us and take us seriously, sometimes there’s a lack of recognition and that’s a pity because we played very well,” Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic told reporters.

“Playing against Spain (a 1-1 draw in a World Cup warmup) and Brazil the way we did, we showed we could react and demonstrate that this team can believe in themselves. We will continue to play with that consistency.”

Next up for Switzerland is a crucial tie against group leaders Serbia, who beat Costa Rica in their opener Sunday.

“We’re expecting a very tough game,” midfielder Valon Behrami said.

“The Serbs are a great team with players who have been together for a couple of years already. We must be wary that they are very strong.”

Eight years ago in South Africa, Switzerland beat eventual champions Spain in their World Cup opener but failed to advance to the knockout rounds.

According to Behrami, the first Swiss player to feature in four World Cups, the outcome will be different this time.

“No, with this team, it will not be like eight years ago,” he said.

Behrami, who kept Brazil talisman Neymar quiet yesterday, will, however, have to assess his fitness after being replaced in the second half because of a groin issue.

“I think I came off at the right time but I will have to monitor the situation,” he said.

ROSTOV-ON-DON, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - 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 focused 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.”

 

ROSTOV-ON-DON, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic said his team deserved more recognition after they held five-times champions Brazil to a 1-1 draw in their opening World Cup match.

“I hope they start looking up and taking notice of us and taking us seriously,” said Petkovic, whose side held Spain to the same score in a warm-up friendly.

“Sometimes, there is a lack of recognition and that is a pity.

“Playing against Brazil and Spain, we demonstrated we could react, that this team always believes in itself and can get results. We will continue to play with this consistency.”

Switzerland have lost only one out of 12 competitive matches since Euro 2016 — a World Cup qualifier away to Portugal.

“I hoped that we would do what we didn't against Portugal, that we would play our game and try to impose our way of playing,” he said.

“I think the team has shown great determination and I'm very, very happy.”

“In the first half we encountered some difficulties, we were not able to put into practice what we wanted, and we invited the opponent to be dangerous,” he said.

“In the second half, I told them to remain calm, focused, believe in ourselves and try and push higher up on the pitch and create possibilities and opportunities to score, and that's what we did.”

Switzerland now face Serbia and then Costa Rica in Group E after taking a valuable point off the Brazilians.

Petkovic also said there was nothing wrong with Steven Zuber's equaliser on Sunday despite Brazilian claims that a defender was pushed.

“He looked to create space and create opportunity, and I think the opposing defence's players were not well-positioned,” he said.

“I am very proud and pleased with the way in which my team played against such good opponents.”

 

ROSTOV-ON-DON, June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Brazil's stuttering performance stemmed from anxiety at playing their first World Cup game, coach Tite said after their 1-1 draw with Switzerland in Group E.

The five-time champions opened the scoring on 20 minutes when Philippe Coutinho's stunning strike went in off the far post but Steven Zuber levelled five minutes into the second half with a powerful header.

Switzerland were well-organised throughout and Brazil created chances but failed to convert them as Neymar and his team mates lacked the guile to secure the win, becoming the latest of the tournament favourites to stumble.

Defending champions Germany lost to Mexico late Sunday while Argentina were held by Iceland and Spain drew with Portugal, with only France of the fancied teams winning despite an under-par display against Australia.

“Until we scored the goal there was a lot of pressure. There was a lot of anxiety, too much pressure and it translated into our way of playing, we were not precise enough,” Tite told a news conference.

“We had some good, clean situations but could have been more precise. This kind of anxiety comes from the concern of playing a first game in a World Cup; even the coach is anxious.”

As a result of those nerves, the Brazil defence were too passive when Zuber barely had to jump to head a corner home in the 50th minute, giving the Swiss a deserved point in a group also featuring Serbia and Costa Rica.

Brazil need to improve on dead balls, said Tite. “In a World Cup, about 45 per cent of the goals come from set pieces,” he explained.

His assistant, Cleber, rued the team's lack of killer instinct as Brazil enjoyed possession but too often lost the ball in or near the box. “

The Swiss were more balanced than at the 2014 Word Cup, they put some pressure on us and we created chances but were not efficient,” he said. Tite concluded: “Of course I'm not happy with the result. We wanted a victory. But anxiety hit us hard.”

Brazil's next game is on Friday against Costa Rica, who lost 1-0 to Serbia in their opener.

 

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