Switzerland contains, draws Brazil 1-1 at World Cup

Brazil's forward Neymar (L) fights for the ball with Switzerland's midfielder Blerim Dzemaili during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Brazil and Switzerland at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don on June 17, 2018. (Photo by KHALED DESOUKI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia¬† — Add Brazil to the list of highly-ranked teams struggling out of the gate at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The five-time champs were held to a 1-1 tie by Switzerland Sunday, just hours after defending champion Germany was beaten by Mexico, 1-0.

Brazil took an early lead on a 20th-minute goal off the right post by Philippe Coutinho in his World Cup debut. Soon after the second half started, however, Steven Zuber headed in the equalizer.

Cesar Ramos, one of the match’s referees, dismissed complaints that Zuber had shoved Brazilian defender Miranda before getting to the corner from Xherdan Shaqiri. Coutinho had another chance to put Brazil ahead in the 67th minute, but his shot sailed wide of the net.

“We got a draw but this is only the beginning for us. We knew this game wasn’t going to be easy,” said Miranda.

Ramos also ignored a penalty claim late in the game when Gabriel Jesus was brought to the ground by Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji. In all, Swiss players ended up with three yellow cards. Ten of the fourteen fouls they committed were on forward Neymar.

“Of course, neutralizing Neymar was a key ingredient of our game,” said Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic, dismissing charges that the star forward had been treated harshly.

He added of his team, “I am proud of their determination. The first 40 minutes were tough for us, and at halftime I told the players to stay cool and press forward. They did, and it worked.”

Brazil has won 17 of its 22 matches since Tite took over as coach in 2016. They remain haunted by a 7-1 loss to the eventual-champion Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals, followed by a 3-0 defeat against the Netherlands in the third-place playoff, both devastating losses in front of their home crowd.

He said he wouldn’t make excuses for the disappointing scoreline.

“What happened with Miranda was clear, but it doesn’t explain the result,” Tite said. “There was a lot of pressure and anxiety on the players and that translated into the finishes that were not precise. We had 20 finishes but we should have make the goalkeeper work harder.

“But of course I’m not happy with the result and of course I wanted to win tonight.”

Brazil will face Costa Rica in St. Petersburg while Switzerland takes on Serbia in Kaliningrad. Both games are set to take place Friday.

***Associated Press contributed to this report***