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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Tite will not blame referee after Neymar's Brazil are held by Switzerland in World Cup opener

While he agrees defender Miranda was pushed during Swiss equaliser in 1-1 draw, manager says it is not right to pressurise match officials

Brazil's Neymar looks down during the Group E match against Switzerland in the Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don on Sunday. Darko Vojinovic / AP Photo
Brazil's Neymar looks down during the Group E match against Switzerland in the Rostov Arena in Rostov-on-Don on Sunday. Darko Vojinovic / AP Photo

Brazil manager Tite refused to blame the referee after watching his side limp to a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in their opening match of the World Cup on Sunday night.

He did, however, suggest that perhaps the pressure had grown too much for his expectant squad to bear.

Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho had opened the scoring for the five-time champions in the 20th minute, but a header from Hoffenheim’s Steven Zuber five minutes into the second half drew the Swiss level. As the Swiss players celebrated their equaliser, their Brazil counterparts swarmed the referee demanding a foul be given for a push on defender Miranda.

“It was a foul,” Tite said. “You should not pressure the referee, though. There is a process and a system in place, there are people responsible and you have to be fair, but the push on Miranda was very clear.”

Defender Thiago Silva, who plays his domestic football with Paris Saint-Germain, said the players were left a little confused as to what they could say to the referee.

Neymar and Miranda argue with the referee Cesar Ramos, something Brazil manager Tite did not appreciate. Buda Mendes / Getty Images
Neymar and Miranda argue with the referee Cesar Ramos, something Brazil manager Tite did not appreciate. Buda Mendes / Getty Images

In France, urging the referee to consult their video assistants is a yellow card offence. At the Rostov Arena, however, with the in-stadium big-screen showing replays of the goal, Neymar, Willian and Miranda all motioned towards the referee to look at the TV. Mexican Cesar Ramos refused to look.

“Look, we are always told as a defender that you cannot use your hands,” Thiago Silva said. “You cannot push. When you push, it’s a foul, irrespective of whether the player falls over or not. To his credit Miranda did not fall, but that does not mean it’s not a foul.”

Brazil, chasing a sixth World Cup title while simultaneously trying to erase memories of 2014’s 7-1 semi-final defeat, had started positively. Clever touches, mixed with crisp passes had the 43,109 fans inside the stadium purring.

Yet save for a Paulinho effort that was well saved by Yann Sommer, they did not create much of note.

Eventually, it was left to Coutinho to open the scoring. Brazil have scored more World Cup goals from outside the penalty area than any other team in the past 50 years and Coutinho’s must surely rank up there among the very best.

A magnificent, curling drive, it looked like going well wide before shifting inwards to kiss the inside of the far post before settling into the net.

“I practise it, of course,” he said. “It was a good goal, but for me it was more important that we won. Now we need to refocus for our next game. This result does not make the next game more important because at a World Cup every game is important.”

If the opening goal was expected to prompt a Brazilian deluge, it did not. Instead Switzerland started to ask a few more questions, probing down either wing and unsettling Brazil’s swaggering rhythm.

Their equaliser arrived with their first effort on target. Zuber connecting with Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner to header past the helpless Alisson.

The goal seemed to spark the otherwise quiet Neymar to life, but a combination of 10 Swiss fouls and defending in numbers prevented the PSG forward from affecting the scoreline.

Miranda, Coutinho and substitute Roberto Firmino all had decent chances as Brazil hunted for a second goal, but they seemed to have left their shooting boots back at their training camp in Sochi. From their 20 shots at goals, only four hit the target.

“There was a lot of pressure and it was translated into too much speed in our last move and that means you are not precise," Tite said. "We had 20 shots, but most of them were off-target. If we had more focus, we could have worked their goalkeeper more.

“The team was looking to move the ball and to work our rivals, but this will serve as a lesson, we have to be a bit cooler and more precise. My expectation of course was to get a victory and so, of course, I'm not happy with the result.”

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While Brazil expressed disappointment, Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic said he hopes his side start to get more attention. Ranked sixth in the world, his side arrived in Rostov on the back of nine straight wins and just one defeat in their previous 23 matches.

"I hope they will start taking notice of us and taking us seriously,” Petkovic said. “Sometimes if there is a lack of recognition that is a pity because we have played very well.

"We showed and demonstrated that this team always believes in itself and can achieve results.”

Shaqiri, in contrast, said he was happy for his team to sail under the radar. “I think for us it’s a positive because there is not a lot of pressure on us,” he said.

“But we know our qualities, and we have a lot.”