Routine win takes Brazil to round of 16

Brazil only needed a point from its final Group E fixture, against Serbia, but goals from Paulinho and Thiago Silva sent it through as the group winner.

Brazil players celebrate Paulinho's goal on 36 minutes.   -  Getty Images

Russia is witnessing a sudden and swift tectonic shift in the world football order, with the thoroughbred teams of yore finding it hard to counter the challenges posed by their unheralded opponents. While four-time champion Germany is already out, South American powerhouse Argentina, too, has failed to impress. Its game inspires little confidence as the team has banked on individual flair, rather than collective effort, to eke out the necessary results.

But, Brazil, the perennial crowd favourite, soaked in some Serbian pressure to produce a 2-0 winning display that was laced both with personal aptitude and team dynamism.

Match highlights: SRB vs BRA

The record five-time champion started with the right gusto, as Neymar was his usual masterly best, combining well with Phillipe Couthinho and Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City forward was prevented from handing Brazil the lead as early as the fourth minute, with goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic doing well to rush out and avert the danger.   

 

Serbia, while solid, missed the individual spark and the tireless work of Dusan Tadic at the left wing and Nemanja Vidic at the centre failed to provide the desired trigger. Stojkovic had to again come to his team’s rescue, tipping a Neymar effort wide in the 25th minute.

Brazil’s goal — exceptionally crafted by Philipe Coutinho with Paulinho providing an equally excellent finishing touch — came a little after the half-hour mark (36th minute). Coutinho, spotting a terrific run down the middle by his Barcelona teammate, lofted a perfect pass and Paulinho astutely judged the bounce of the ball to poke it over a hapless Stojkovic, who was left with little protection from his high backline.  

 

Brazil had a moment of horror in the 61st minute when Allison parried a ball to Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose diving header hit a defender to save Brazil the blushes. The Serbians, led by skipper Aleksandar Kolorov down the left touchline, enjoyed a bout of pressure on the Brazilian goal but Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s turning effort sailed wide, bringing relief to the noisy Brazilian supporters.

The raids on its citadel woke Brazil up and Thiago Silva added a second goal in the 68 minute, out-jumping the Serbian defence to head in a Neymar corner. 

 

The two-goal cushion further emboldened Brazil’s play, but Neymar and Jesus failed to provide the necessary finishing touches despite some wonderful play by the Brazilian midfield, which benefitted from the fresh legs of Fernandinho and Renato Augusto.

The win ensured Brazil’s place as the table topper while adding more weight to its billing as a genuine title contender.

  • Goals from Paulinho (36th minute) and Thiago Silva (67th minute) sent Brazil into the round of 16
  • Serbia, despite winning its first match, was knocked out of the World Cup from Group E, along with Costa Rica
  • Brazil was the Group E winner, which means it will face Mexico in the last-16 clash

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