ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — 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 on Sunday.
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 teammates lacked the guile to secure the win, becoming the latest of the tournament favourites to stumble.
Defending champions Germany lost to Mexico on 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.
“I was expecting to get a victory so, of course, I’m not happy with the result,” continued Tite.
“At this stage of a World Cup you have to take advantage of a goal and see that your opponents are taking risks and you need to have faster transitions.”
Tite did not complain that his side were denied a penalty when Manuel Akanji wrapped his arms around Gabriel Jesus and had little sympathy with claims some of his players had been fouled when Switzerland levelled. Nor would the Brazil boss use the physical tactics Switzerland employed against Neymar, who was fouled 10 times in the match by his opponents, as an excuse for the result.
“I can’t coach a team who complains. You can interpret the penalty in any way but there’s no way you can complain,” he added.
And Neymar, who came up limping after a foul late in the match, downplayed the significance of any injury, saying: “It’s nothing to worry about, I’m fine,” while reiterating what his manager Tite said about the referees.
“It’s not up to me, there are three professionals working there,” said Neymar, referring to the officials. “I have to play football, I do not have to worry about it. They have to do their job, and if they did not do it right, their problem.”
Brazil’s doctor Rodrigo Lasmar also insisted that the forward will be fit enough to play in their second game against Costa Rica on Friday.
“He will be 100 percent for the next game,” said Lasmar. “He will not go through any specific treatment, we are not worried.”
Meanwhile, Tite’s opposite number Vladimir Petkovic said he hoped his team would get some deserved recognition for the hard-earned point after few had given Switzerland a chance against one of the favourites in Russia.
“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.
“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. Brazil’s next game is on Friday against Costa Rica, who lost 1-0 to Serbia in their opener.