“Where’s Bobby, Bobby?” weeps Ian Copestake, in reference to the absence of Roberto Firmino. “Am gutted.”
They prefer Gabriel Jesus. It’s a tactics thing; you don’t wanna go there.
In case you missed it, the holders Germany lost 1-0 Mexico this afternoon in Moscow. Read all about it, why don’t you.
That result is good news for England. The draw was such that it seemed England could not avoid either Germany or Brazil in the quarter-finals, if they got that far. But if Germany don’t win their group, and England finish second in theirs, then a potential quarter-final would be against a team like Mexico, Serbia or Switzerland rather than Germany. All of which is to say: Arise Sir Harry.
Brazil (4-3-3) Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Paulinho, Casemiro, Coutinho; Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar.
Switzerland (4-2-3-1) Sommer; Lichtsteiner, Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez; Behrami, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Dzemaili, Zuber; Seferovic.
Referee Cesar Arturo Ramos (Mexico).
Never mind Nike; Brazilian football could advertise Nietzsche. Their World Cup story is validation of his old proverb about how what does not destroy us makes us stronger. Their last three wins, in 1970, 1994 and 2002, were emotional redemptions from the misery of the previous tournament: Pele being booted around England like an old sock in 1966, Diego Maradona vaccinating them in 1990, and the Ronaldo mystery of 1998. They will hope that the biblical meltdown of 2014 was merely a sick prologue to a sixth World Cup.
Brazil look relaxed and confident, with none of the mind-altering pressure of four years ago. The coach Tite has guided them back towards a lighter, more Brazilian style of play, while retaining a fair amount of their newfangled solidity. Marcelo is the only survivor in the starting XI from the team that lost 7-1 to Germany, and they qualified for the tournament with ease. They lost only one of their 18 games and finished ten points ahead of second-placed Uruguay.
They should breeze through a relatively easy group that includes Costa Rica, Serbia and tonight’s opponents Switzerland. The Swiss are in impressive form, with 14 wins out of 17 since Euro 2016, but most of those were against C-list opposition. They’ll do well to get anything out of this game.
Unlike most superpowers, Brazil start World Cup groups strongly. It’s 40 years since they failed to win their first game or their first-round group. The first round is just a bit of admin to be done before the real business starts – in this case attempting to win the tournament for the first time since 2002. Sixteen years of hurt in Brazil is the equivalent of about four centuries in most countries. Especially when it includes a trauma like 2014.
Kick off is at 7pm BST, 9pm in Rostov-on-Don.
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