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2018 FIFA World Cup
17 June 2018
Kick-off: 02:00 HKT (18 June)
Venue: Rostov Arena
Referee: C. Ramos
Assistants: M. Torrentera, M. Hernandez
Fourth official: J. Pitti
Fifth official: G. Victoria
Neymar will be carrying the hopes of a nation in Russia, after the Samba star saw his World Cup dream cruelly ended by injury against Colombia in the quarter-finals on home soil four years ago. The Canarinho couldn’t cope without their talisman in the semi-finals as they suffered a humiliating 7-1 defeat to eventual champions Germany.
Neymar missed the final few months of Paris Saint-German’s season due to a broken foot he sustained in February, but the 26-year-old forward seems to have made a full recovery after scoring in the final two warm-up matches against Croatia and Austria. The goal against Das Team took Neymar to 55 for his country, which puts him joint-third with Romario on the top scorers’ list.
Xherdan Shaqiri is the darling of Swiss fans and reminded the world of his talent with a sumptuous overhead-kick against Poland at Euro 2016, where Die Nati reached the last 16. The 26-year-old winger hasn’t scored for his country in 12 months, but will be looking to put himself in the shop window against Brazil following Stoke’s relegation from the Premier League this past season.
Team form and manager quotes:
The five-time world champions breezed through qualifying to top their group with just one defeat, and they are unbeaten in 11 games since going down 1-0 to arch-rivals Argentina in June 2017.
Tite’s side won six of their seven friendlies going into the finals, with only England managing to avoid defeat by holding them to a goalless draw in November 2017.
Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino all chipped in with goals during that impressive run, and the attacking quartet will be targeting more of the same against the Swiss.
Tite is hoping his players can deliver on the world’s biggest stage after showing what they are capable of in the build-up to the tournament.
“The work we have done elevates the expectations, but also brings us peace,” the 57-year-old said in his pre-match press conference.
“I am very happy about the level of performance we have showed so far. I hope we can now reproduce this under pressure.”
Die Nati matched Portugal during the qualifiers with nine wins and one defeat in their 10 matches, but had to come through the play-offs to reach the finals – edging out Northern Ireland 1-0 over two legs.
Vladimir Petkovic’s team have also not lost since the 2-0 reverse to the Portuguese in October 2017, winning four of their five friendlies in the lead-up to the World Cup, while holding Spain to a goalless draw.
Petkovic admits he would take a point against Brazil, but he’s not about to set out his stall to defend, despite the abundance of talent at Tite’s disposal.
“For me as a coach, as a football teacher, a draw is not enough,” he told the press. “We always try to achieve the maximum, to win, that is obviously the case, we will do everything to achieve this.
“If the opponent is better at performing on the pitch and we have to settle for a draw we will accept that. But we prefer to focus on winning and we have that ambition.”
Neymar stepped off the bench to score in the recent 2-0 win over Croatia before netting as a starter against Austria last weekend, but Tite has revealed that the forward “is still not 100%” fit.
The world’s most expensive signing is expected to start on the bench, with Jesus and Firmino pushing to lead the line in Rostov.
Dani Alves is missing due to a knee injury he suffered while playing for Paris Saint-Germain in the Coupe de France final on May 8 – ruling him out of the World Cup.
The only absentee for Switzerland is Admir Mehmedi, who won’t feature in Russia either after tearing his knee ligaments in March.