The Selecao are favourites to win the game against Vladimir Petkovic’s team, but the former national team star believes it will be surprisingly tight
Brazil may be one of the favourites to win the 2018 World Cup, but Neymar and Co. are in for a surprisingly difficult start to the competition when they take on Switzerland, Stephane Chapuisat says.
The Selecao approach the campaign in Russia aiming for a sixth world title and to eradicate the memories of their semi-final exit of 2014, when they lost 7-1 to Germany.
Brazil kick off their campaign against Switzerland and are expected to top Group E ahead of Sunday’s opponents, Costa Rica and Serbia.
However, ex-Switzerland and Borussia Dortmund star Chapuisat believes Vladimir Petkovic’s team will put up a good fight against Tite’s charges.
“Brazil is one of the favourites of the tournament, but Switzerland are always difficult to handle, we are well organized and we can bother big teams,” he told Goal. “But Brazil are still thinking about a World Cup at home that ended badly. They may have a big reaction.
“But it will be an interesting match and it will be a bonus for us if we achieve a positive result. The most important game for us will be the second against Serbia.”
Switzerland narrowly lost out on first place in their qualifying group after winning all but one of their 10 games, and the progress they have made in recent years has given Chapuisat reason to be optimistic.
“Petkovic has integrated a lot of young players,” he continued. “He found the right mix, with young players and some old ones. We had a very good qualifying phase with him. It was special because there were two teams that won nine games out of 10; us and Portugal. We finished second and we had to go through the playoffs. Now, it’s going to be an interesting World Cup in a group where there is a big favourite like Brazil. But it will be tight between the other teams.
“We have a good team if everyone is there. We have quality players. Our problem is that we have a lot of players who play abroad but who aren’t necessarily in the starting XI at their clubs. For the national team, it is always problematic when important players lack playing time. But that’s the lot of the countries like us where the standard of the national championship is not very high and where the good players go elsewhere. There is a risk that they will not play or that they will be in the wrong position.”
Switzerland’s best ever finish at a World Cup was in 1954, when they hosted it and reached the quarter-finals. The Nati settled for a last-16 finish in Brazil four years ago, but Chapuisat hopes they can go one further.
Chapuisat added: “It would be beautiful to reach the quarter-finals, but we have to be solid in these knockout matches. We know that everything is possible, but as I said, we must have a great match as our team hasn’t yet reached the knockout stage.”