Stephan Lichtsteiner acknowledged it is “practically impossible” to stop Neymar throughout an entire match, describing him as one of the “best and most complete” forwards in the game, but Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic nevertheless insisted his team are determined to beat Brazil when they meet at the World Cup on Sunday.
All eyes will be on Neymar at Rostov Arena this weekend, when the Selecao superstar, who suffered a broken metatarsal in February, returns to competitive action on the biggest stage of all, seeking to help the pre-tournament favourites orchestrate a sixth World Cup triumph.
Having regain full fitness, Neymar scored in Brazil’s friendly wins over Croatia and Austria before their arrival in Russia, and Lichtsteiner, who left Juventus to join Arsenal at the end of the domestic season, has no illusions about the scale of the task Switzerland face in attempting to halt the Paris Saint-Germain attacker.
Asked how his side plans to deal with the deadly former Santos and Barcelona striker, Switzerland captain Lichtsteiner said: “Well, I believe it is practically impossible to completely neutralise Neymar over 90 minutes, he’s probably the best and most complete in that position in the world.
“It’s about using our strengths, our fullbacks as wingers to go forward, as a weapon. We have to be very cohesive as a team and close the gaps when we confront those individual players.
“I don’t think this is the moment to release our strategy, we have to keep it under wraps. But we’re going to be running fast.”
Das Nationalteam ist gut in Rostow angekommen#HoppSchwiiz #HopSuisse #ForzaSvizzera #HopSvizra pic.twitter.com/DJqjTtxmUk
— nationalteams_SFVASF (@SFV_ASF) June 15, 2018
Petkovic, meanwhile, has been impressed by Brazil’s progress under Tite, but the Switzerland coach has no intention of affording the South American heavyweights an easy ride next to the banks of the Don River.
“They are an excellent team, a team that has undergone great development in the last four years,” he said.
“They’re [now] much more European in their playing style, we need to give them respect.
“But I much prefer to focus on my team. We’re not here to make a lovely match against Brazil but to win it.”
Despite the daunting challenge awaiting his players, the 54-year-old exuded quiet confidence on the eve of the game, insisting Switzerland are targeting all three points to start their campaign in Group E.
“For me as a coach, as a football teacher, a draw is not enough,” he said.
“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.”