- Four Brazilians and three Swiss met each other in the FIFA Under 17 World Cup
- Neymar, Coutinho, Alisson and Casemiro lost to the then champions
- Follow #BRASUI in our LIVE BLOG
By Giancarlo Giampietro with Brazil
Brazil kick off their Russia 2018 campaign against Switzerland on Sunday, 17 June. For four of Tite’s first-choice players, the match will bring back memories of a meeting between the two nations nearly nine years ago, in a FIFA U-17 World Cup group-phase match.
Goalkeeper Alisson, midfielders Casemiro and Philippe Coutinho, and forward Neymar were all on the pitch in Abuja, Nigeria on 30 October 2009, when A Seleção needed a result to advance to the knockout phase of the competition.
As it turned out, however, the Swiss won 1-0 to top the group and send the Brazilians home early, with Mexico taking second place and Japan propping up the group. The European side then went on to knock out two more giants in the shape of Germany and Italy, before beating the hosts in the final to land a historic world title.
“It’s one of life’s little ironies, isn’t it?” Alisson told FIFA.com. “That wasn’t a very happy time for us because we were knocked out. They had a very strong side.”
With many years having passed since then, it would be an exaggeration to describe Sunday’s game in Rostov as a ‘rematch’. It will, all the same, be interesting to see how the Brazilian quartet fare against midfielder Granit Xhaka, the versatile Ricardo Rodriguez, and striker Haris Seferovic, who all featured in that match, with Seferovic ending the tournament as its top scorer.
All seven players were born in 1992, and in the case of the Brazilians they have developed alongside each other. “We grew up together and we identified with one another,” said Alisson. “It makes the story even nicer.”
Just as they were nine years ago, Brazil are one of the favourites to win the title, only this time they will be hoping for a very different outcome. “We were expected to go all the way then, but things didn’t work out how we wanted,” said Coutinho. “We had a World Cup to forget. It wasn’t good.”
Much can happen in nine years, especially in football. That defeat in Nigeria did not prove a barrier to the development of the talented midfielder and his team-mates, who have kicked on to become some of the finest players in the world in their positions.
The Swiss trio who were on duty at Nigeria 2009 have also prospered, embarking on successful careers in Europe, though not yet quite as successful as their Brazilian counterparts. “We’re definitely more mature, with lots of experience behind us and playing at the highest level,” added Alisson. “It’s going to be a huge challenge and we hope to rise to it. I hope that this time we’ll be the ones coming away with the big result.”
Alisson demonstrates his reflexes in training prior to the opening game against Switzerland.