Belfast Telegraph

Steven Zuber denies Brazil as Switzerland snatch famous draw

The midfielder’s header cancelled out Philippe Coutinho’s stunning first-half opener.

Steven Zuber denied Brazil victory in their opening game of the World Cup as battling Switzerland fought back to snatch a famous 1-1 Group E draw in Rostov.

The Hoffenheim defender cancelled out Philippe Coutinho’s stunning first-half opener with a bullet header five minutes after the restart with the South Americans appealing in vain for a push on defender Miranda.

In their first game at the finals since their 7-1 humiliation by Germany four years ago, Brazil created enough chances to win the game, particularly amid a late flurry, but were unable to score a second as they failed to win their opening game at the tournament for just the fifth time in 21 attempts.

Switzerland started confidently and Blerim Dzemaili even threatened to shock the five-times champions with an early flick which flew just over the bar.

However, Tite’s men soon settled and after Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer had got his fingertips to Paulinho’s close-range shot following an exchange of passes between Coutinho and Neymar, they took the lead in style with 20 minutes gone.

Marcelo’s cross was cleared only as far as Coutinho, who took a touch before curling an unstoppable right foot shot beyond the keeper’s despairing dive and inside the far post.

They could have increased their lead 12 minutes before the break when Gabriel Jesus climbed to meet Neymar’s corner, but directed his header harmlessly back in the direction from which it had come.

Switzerland responded in determined fashion, but might have conceded again in first-half stoppage time when defender Thiago Silva headed over from another Neymar delivery.

But Vladimir Petkovic’s men were back on terms within five minutes of the restart, much to the annoyance of the Brazilians.

Xherdan Shaqiri curled a corner to the near post where Zuber climbed to power a header home amid ultimately futile protests that he had pushed marker Miranda on his way up.

Brazil’s reaction was concerted as Coutinho saw two shots blocked in quick succession before Neymar’s 58th-minute shot was deflected into the side-netting.                   

But with the Swiss defending for dear life, the South Americans lacked composure and their efforts became increasingly desperate with even Coutinho falling victim when he sliced wide from a promising position with 20 minutes remaining.

Dzemaili failed to trouble keeper Alisson from distance three minutes later, but Swiss hearts were in mouths within seconds when Jesus went down in the area under Manuel Akanji’s challenge, although Mexican referee Cesar Ramos was unmoved.

Substitute Roberto Firmino added fresh impetus after replacing Jesus with 11 minutes left on the clock, but he slashed high and wide from a tight angle when a cross might have been the better option.

Neymar could have stolen the headlines with a later header from William’s cross, but directed the ball straight at a grateful Sommer, who then repelled a 90th-minute effort from Firmino.

However, the keeper was relieved to see Miranda drag an injury-time volley inches wide as his side emerged with a precious point.

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