Brazil strolled into the last 16 of the 2018 Fifa World Cup after somewhat outplaying Serbia 2-0 in both the sides’ final Group E encounter at Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia yesterday.
Paulinho gave the five-time world champion the lead in the 36th minute before Thiago Silva doubled the lead in the 68th minute as Brazil ended as Group E champion, ahead of Switzerland, who also progressed to the Round of 16 as the runners up side.
Switzerland drew 1-1 with Costa Rica in the other game of the group in Nizhny Novgorod.
Brazil will now take on Mexico in the last 16 while the Swiss will face Sweden.
Serbia made several changes to their starting XI while Brazil manager Tite basically kept faith with the same starting XI with the exception of right-back Fagner, who replaced the injured Danilo.
Branislav Ivanovic and Zoran Tosic were left out by Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic, who perhaps feared the ageing duo won’t be able to handle the pace of the Brazilian frontline.
The 22-year old Milos Veljkovic of Werder Bremen made his competitive debut for Serbia in what was a must-win game for the Europeans.
The Selecao played well in the first half whereas Serbia struggled to impose their authority. The Serbians were only able to complete 69% of their passes, against Brazil’s 84%.
The Serbians also failed to create any clear cut chances.
Brazil opened up the Serbian defence several times. Starting the game in a dominating fashion, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar made some early runs but the former failed to beat Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stackovic from close range in the fourth minute.
Brazil received an early jolt in the 10th minute when Marcelo was forced to leave the field due to injury.
The Real Madrid left-back made way for Atletico Madrid defender Filipe Luis.
The Brazilians, despite the early blow took the all-important lead in the latter stage of the first half.
A beautiful lofted pass from Philippe Coutinho found Paulinho, who sprinted before finishing calmly past the Serbian keeper.
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In the latter part of the second half, Jesus got another golden opportunity to extend the lead but his shot was blocked inside the box.
Neymar also missed a chance moments later when his shot went just wide of the post.
Both the teams started in aggressive fashion after resumption as Serbia scripted some attacks in and around the 60th minute in the face of a rush of blood by the Brazilian defenders.
Brazil though ensured the full three points when Silva powered home a strong header after a delightful Neymar corner in the 68th minute.