Neymar the unready and an impotent Paulinho – just two reasons why Brazil failed to deliver in the World Cup opener against Switzerland
Brazil had a very disappointing performance against Switzerland in the side’s World Cup opener. Everything went wrong in what was possibly the worst display since Tite took charge of the team, around two-years-ago. Here are five things we learned from the 1-1 draw in Rostov.
1 – Neymar is not in his best shape yet
After picking up an injury with Paris Saint Germain, Neymar had to sit on the sidelines for around three months. In his comeback as a substitute against Croatia in a friendly, he scored a wonderful goal, before adding another in the next game away to Austria. But in his first competitive match, he looked poor against Switzerland, losing possession on many occasions, coming second best in many of his duels and looking off the pace. Neymar doesn’t seem to be in his best physical condition, which draws major concerns as he is Brazil’s best player.
2 – Paulinho’s contribution is minimal
Paulinho had a horrible display and was Brazil’s worst performer. The right-hand flank including him, Danilo and Willian failed to be of any creativity. His touch looked heavy and he missed two goal-scoring chances due to poor finishing or poor technique. In a match like this where the Barcelona man doesn’t prove to be clinical in the final third, he almost offers nothing else of relevance. It would be a better idea to try out more technically-gifted options like Fred. Heck, even Renato Augusto looked better than him today, at least in terms of helping keeping possession and passing the ball forward.
3 – Firmino deserves a chance as a starter
When is the last time Roberto Firmino started a game for Brazil? It was almost a-year-ago against Colombia in the World Cup qualifiers. Following his best season ever at club level, guiding Liverpool to the Champions League final, you’d think he’d get more than 15 minutes in a game where Brazil struggled to find the net. In the minimal time Firmino had, he still did enough to cause the opponents more problems than Gabriel Jesus. It would be nice, and fair, to see him get the nod against Costa Rica on Friday.
4 – Neymar needs to release the ball quicker
Neymar might not be in his best physical condition following injury, which is already a good reason as to why he should not keep hold of the ball for too long and provoke opponents. It’s asking for trouble. But the most important reason is that he is actually slowing down the team’s tempo, in a game where Brazil needed to play quick passing-combinations to reach Switzerland’s penalty areas. If Brazil want to make something out of this tournament, it is imperative to succeed as a team, and not as a bunch of individuals.
5 – Brazil is under serious threat of early elimination
Losing two points against Switzerland is already enough to draw questions as to whether Brazil could be out at the group stages. Serbia, who are apparently a more difficult opponent, are likely to achieve a result against Brazil. In this case, failure against Costa Rica could result in a terrible scenario. However, that is not likely, at least not yet. The real threat would be in the round of 16. While the objective was to avoid Germany, right now it feels like facing Mexico could be even worse – especially considering their record of pulling upsets against Brazil.