Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho gave Brazil a 20th-minute lead by curling home brilliantly from long range، as the Daily Maily said Switzerland hit back five minutes after half time when Steven Zuber headed in following a corner kick Brazil defender Miranda argued that Zuber had pushed him but referee Cesar Arturo Ramos let the goal stand. They'd put 1،440 days between themselves and the catastrophe of the 7-1 defeat to Germany but it still casts its shadow. Brazil are seeking redemption for what they still call 'la fantasma' — 'the ghost' of Belo Horizonte. The intensity of all they did in the early stages hinted at that. Germany's faltering start to the tournament in the hours before the game was a reminder of new beginnings.
They held nothing back. Tite had said on Saturday that Neymar was 'not 100 per cent right' but even if there was any truth in that، the manager who has rebuilt this team had no intention of acting on it. He threw him into the fray.
The game was four minutes old when a defensive midfielder، Valon Behrami، hustled him as any self-respecting defensive midfielder would do. What was significant in that moment was the talisman's reluctance to release the ball. He held his ground and held Behrami off، seeming to signal that he plays without a shadow of doubt about that metatarsal which had kept him out of competitive football since February.
There were clear minds all around him in that first period. Brazil were prepared to give Switzerland half the field to play in. The ball was generally into their own half before they went in active pursuit of it.
And once it belonged to them، they shipped it around the field with the kind of intuition which hinted at the potential for something fearsome in the four weeks which lie ahead. Extremely early days، but there was something of the 1970 side about this imperturbable quality when they were out of possession.
Almost from the start، Neymar and Philippe Coutinho were the most dangerous combination in the left hand channel، latter feeding former in the game's 11th minute، when Fabian Schaer found the ball under his feed in a nightmare moment and could only half clear the ball to Paulinho، who shot wide. With the space they were allowed، the Swiss did not lack opportunity. Barely before the game had started، Xherdan Shaqiri found Blerim Dzemaili unmarked in the box but the forward could not sort his feet out and shot over.
But the opening goal، on 20 minutes، delivered a message for which there was no immediate answer — Neymar and Coutinho exchanging passes in the left hand channel again and shipping out for Marcelo، whose cross was headed by Steven Zuber to the feet of the former Liverpool player. The trajectory of his sublime strike — bending from fully a foot outside the right hand post to strike the inside of the upright on its way into the top right — was his trademark.
The Swiss equaliser went against the grain of everything that had gone before. The centre half Miranda lacked any awareness as Zuber، unmarked four yards from goal، leapt to meet Shaqiri's corner and powered his header past Allison on 50 minutes.
Brazil swept back. Coutinho had two shots blocked in quick succession and Neymar، following up on the second، sending a deflected effort into the side-netting. He briefly hobbled on the right foot he had broken but it was a false alarm. He and Coutinho continued to provide the main attacking axis. The Barcelona player took down a clipped left foot pass from his teammate on his chest، after 70 minutes، and fired wide. Tite brought in Roberto Firmino for Jesus، who struggled to make an impression، and substitute Renato Augusto had a close-range effort at the death. But on a weekend which some mighty giants have been slayed، the outcome demonstrated that the team which lifts this trophy will need more than the stardust quality. Guile، steadfastness and physicality will all be requirements. We wait to see whether Brazil really are equipped to put the past behind them.