GROUP E gets underway on Sunday as pre-tournament favourites Brazil make their first appearance in Rostov to face Switzerland. Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) previews the encounter and picks out his best bets.
Brazil v Switzerland | Sunday 17th June 2018, 19:00 | ITV
Four years on from their humiliation in Belo-Horizonte, Brazil are back on the world stage and eager to make amends. The Selecao arrive as pre-tournament favourites following a tremendous turnaround in form following the appointment of Tite and are fully expecting to take top honours in Group E.
The South Americans have taken top spot in each and every one of their World Cup appearances since 1978, boasting a quite remarkable W23-D3-L1 group-stage record across those nine tournaments and few should be tempted to oppose the Samba Boys in their opener from Rostov.
Brazil have roared back to football’s top table displaying the same swashbuckling style, swagger and skill of yesteryear. The Samba Stars collected 32 qualifying points from a possible 36 under Tite, scoring 30 goals and conceding just three.
The Selecao became the first country to qualify – doing so with four fixtures to spare – with their sole reverse en-route to Russia in the first of their 18 encounters. Include non-competitive action and the overwhelming Group E favourites have suffered just two defeats in their last 30 fixtures.
Brazil backed to start in style
Tite’s troops breezed past Croatia and Austria in recent friendlies with the returning Neymar looking fit, fresh and in-form, and so there can few doubts about this team’s ability to perform now. Famed for their slick attacking style, the Selecao are also making headlines at the back.
The five-time World Cup winners have leaked just five goals in 21 games under Tite’s stewardship with the likes of Casemiro and Fernandinho providing a firm foundation in the middle of the park. Understandably, the Samba Boys are short-priced 2/5 (Bet365) favourites to win here and so the win ‘to nil‘ is well worth consideration.
However, for a shorter price, I think the 7/10 (Coral) available on Brazil winning alongside Under 4.5 Goals is a real steal. This selection would see our wager pay-out should the Selecao win 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, 2-1 or 3-1.
The Match Odds imply Brazil win this game 71% of the time but the 7/10 suggests this bet has only a 59% chance of success – I’m not sure there’s a 12% chance the Samba Boys triumph 4-1, 5-0 or bigger and therefore make this value.
Swiss struggle up top
Switzerland are no easy meat, that’s fair to say. Die Nati have suffered a solitary reverse since Euro 2016 – a 2-0 loss in Lisbon to Portugal in their final World Cup qualifier and they’ve never conceded more than twice in 35 fixtures under Vladimir Petkovic’s watch.
Those 35 outings have returned only seven defeats – four of which were by the 2-0 correct score – and it’s easy to see where their faults are. During the preliminaries, Switzerland scored just 2.63 goals per-game against Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia and Andorra and lack a top-class striker.
Two years ago Petkovic’s posse managed only two goals in three group-stage games, while the Alpine nation toiled for large periods in their play-off encounters with Northern Ireland last November. There’s an overreliance on Xherdan Shaqiri for inspiration and if he’s shackled, they tend to struggle.
Die Nati could easily be silenced and the 5/4 (Betfred) on a Brazilian win ‘to nil’ seems fair game; I just prefer that extra insurance of having a consolation goal onside here. Just two (17%) of Switzerland’s 12 overall qualifiers featured four or more goals and seven (58%) paid-out for Under 2.5 Goals backers.
Brazil v Switzerland – Brazil to win and Under 4.5 Goals (7/10 Coral)