World Cup 2018: Group E First Matches

Group E opened play with group underdogs Serbia and Costa Rica duking it out on the pitch.  As with several other games, this match was a conflict of styles with Serbia’s controlled possession offense versus Costa Rica’s faster, open style.  Costa Rica came out firing with two early on-target shots, but could not slip them past Serbian goalie, Vladimir Stojkovic.  Gonzalez in particular should have scored on a header off a cross, but got a little too under the ball and put it over the crossbar.   Serbian David Guzman makes a beautiful bicycle kick shot, but it is right at the goalie.  He is also called offside, though replays showed that he wasn’t.   As that half wore on, Serbia controlled the midfield, but was not getting shots on target.

Early in the second, Daniel Colindres got a breakaway in the Costa Rican box, but got nothing on his shot and the goalie was able to push it away.  Minutes later on a set piece, Alexander Kolarov slipped a left footer between the heads of two jumping defenders on the wall and into the upper right corner of the goal.  Costa Rica pressed the attack after that, but the Serbians packed their interior defense tightly so that Costa Rica had no room to maneuver from good shooting angles.  At the end, Costa Rica was throwing waves of players into the Serbian box, but could not find the net.  Serbia’s 1-0 win will give them some hope of upsetting Switzerland in a later game for a chance to advance out of the group.

The second match of Group E, Brazil and Switzerland, also featured contrasting styles.  The Swiss are a tough, defensive-oriented team, while the Brazilians are famous for their unfundamental, creative style featuring fancy dribbling and passing.  The Brazilian style worked early on as they repeatedly broke down the Swiss defense for scoring opportunities by pushing through balls into open spaces and allowing their players to beat the Swiss defense to the ball.  The pressure was successful 20 minutes in when a Swiss defender made a poor clearance header that Coutinho then blasted from outside the box that curved and bounced off the far pole for the goal.  One of the better shots you will see.    Brazilian superstar Neymar got a lot of attention from the Swiss defense, getting pushed, held, shoved, and fouled a lot.  Throughout first half, the Swiss had their fair share of possession, but could not create any scoring opportunities.

Early in the second half though, the Swiss scored a stunning goal off a free kick.  Swiss winger Steven Zuber was in the middle of the box for the kick and appeared to give a little push to a Brazilian defender, but other defenders failed to converge on Zuber and his well-placed header found the back of the net.  Following that, the rest of the half was spent almost entirely on the Swiss side of the field as the Brazilians relentlessly attacked.  Despite numerous scoring opportunities, Swiss goalie Yann Sommer was up to the task with some good saves.  Switzerland did get a little lucky though as their defense took down a Brazilian player in the box, but no penalty kick was declared.  The 1-1 draw is a major failure for Brazil, but their utter domination on the field is a good sign for them moving forward.  The Swiss have to be really happy with the result and will fare better against Serbia and Costa Rica in their remaining group matches.p>

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