Brazil 2-0 Serbia: Talking points as Selecao justify favourites label

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Brazil started their World Cup quest with a 2-0 win over Serbia at the Lusail Stadium on Thursday evening, with Tottenham Hotspur striker Richarlison scoring twice to secure the three points for Tite’s men.

Mature Brazil

The five-time world champions entered this clash as huge favourites and they obviously justified that expectation. The final scoreline arguably doesn’t fully reflect their dominance on the pitch in this match, but the fact that Serbia failed to take a single shot that would make Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker work speaks loudly. On the other hand, Tite’s men hit the target nine times from a total of 23 attempts, to go with their 56% possession.

But even these numbers don’t really show how good Brazil actually were. They took a very mature approach to the contest, dominating the ball but not attacking too fiercely, especially in the first half. They probed every once in a while until Richarlison pounced when Vanja Milinkovic-Savic in the Serbia goal parried a tricky low effort by Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior to open the scoring. Then they endured a very brief attempt at finding an equalizer, and Richarlison put an end to it all with a spectacular second goal in the 72nd minute.

It was a very confident display, perhaps not quite as sparkling and high-scoring as it could’ve been, but certainly worthy of the win.

Disappointing Serbia performance

Speaking to the press after the match, Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic voiced the views of most who saw the game by confessing himself disappointed with what happened to his team during the second half. It’s true that Brazil weren’t exactly allowed to create much in the first 45 minutes, even though Vanja Milinkovic-Savic had to work hard even then to keep his team level.

Referee Alireza Faghani from Iran arguably played his part in hosing Serbia’s spirits down early on, when he booked defender Strahinja Pavlovic less than six minutes in, for what appeared to have been an ordinary foul on Neymar in the middle of the park. He then let Lucas Paqueta off the hook a few minutes later, after the West Ham midfielder went studs-first into the ankle of Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who had already had ankle issues before the match. Such moments early on can often set the tone of the whole match, particularly when they go in favour of the better team.

Nonetheless, Stojkovic’s men held themselves rather well through the first half, and even for a portion of the second, right until Richarlison scored the second goal. From that point on, Serbia completely fell apart, and it’s basically a wonder that the likes of Antony, Rodrygo, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli failed to add to the scoreline after coming on. They showed a great hunger to prove themselves by taking advantage of the opposition being on the ropes, but it wasn’t to be. The only man who had a good game for Serbia, Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, saw to that.

Upfront, Mitrovic was completely cut off, unable to do much without proper support. Dusan Tadic was stifled throughout, as was Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and it’s worth bearing in mind that the Ajax captain and the Lazio midfielder are Serbia’s main creators. There was a report in the Brazilian press which described goalkeeper Alisson as a spectator in this match, and that says a lot about Serbia’s inability to cause him any problems.

Looking ahead

Brazil face Switzerland next, and they’ll surely be looking to finish the job of winning Group G with the Cameroon clash to spare. If they do so, Tite will likely change a few players for the final round, saving some of his stars for the knockout stages, but the quality of the team he sends out certainly won’t be far lower.

As for Serbia, they obviously have work to do. They probably weren’t really expecting to beat Brazil anyway, but the Cameroon clash on Monday now has to bring their first victory if they intend to even dream of going through. If they fail, they fall. If they succeed, they’ll battle it out for the second place against Switzerland.

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