Brazil keep dream alive and end Serbia’s in 2-0 win
Brazil 2 (Paulinho 36’, Silva 68’)
By Laurence Kelson
In a match where a loss for either team could have meant elimination, it was Brazil that stood tall.
Two goals, a clean sheet and an outstanding outing from Brazil’s talismanic defender, Thiago Silva, put them on top of Group E to set up a round-of-16-match with Mexico.
Serbia will regret a lack of control in the key moments and have paid the price with an early exit when qualification for the knockout stage was within their grasp.
— FIFA World Cup ???? (@FIFAWorldCup) June 27, 2018
The match in Moscow’s Spartak Stadium started off with both teams playing conservatively, keeping their backlines firmly intact to avoid being caught on the counter.
Serbia had early pressure with several corners but a lack of accuracy and good defensive reading by Brazilian keeper Alisson Becker nullified the threat.
As the half progressed Brazil’s defensive qualities started to show by restricting Serbia to 39 percent possession and cutting down their passing lanes by reducing their pass accuracy to 69 per cent.
Serbia’s defence looked shaky as both central defenders Nikola Milenkovic and Milos Veljkovic were caught out a number of times trying to spring the offside trap.
And those defensive frailties were exposed when Paulinho ran between the two defenders to latch on to a perfectly-weighted pass by Philippe Coutinho and knock the ball over the on-rushing Serbian keeper Vladimir Stojkovic for 1-0.
Serbia posed much more of a threat in the second half and they came close in the 60th minute when Brazil keeper Alisson parried a cross straight into the path of Aleksandr Mitrovic but his goal-bound header was blocked by Silva.
Silva then went from goal saver to goal scorer in the 68th minute when he rose to head home a corner from Neymar and, in the process, effectively ended Serbia’s hopes of a comeback.
Serbia now head home, frustrated and angry about what might have been after officiating decisions didn’t go their way in the earlier match against Switzerland.
Brazil now start the process of putting the ghosts of 2014 to rest by facing Mexico in the round-of-16, whose last outing was a heavy 3-0 loss to Sweden.
Brazil’s only concern will be the health of left back Marcelo who left the match in the 10th minute with an injury.
Shots on goal (on target)
Serbia 10 (1)
Brazil 13 (5)
Serbia (4-2-3-1): 1 Stojkovic (GK), 2 Rukavina, 9 Mitrovic (89’), 10 Tadic, 11 Koralov (c), 13 Veljkovic, 15 Milenkovic, 17 Kostic (82’), 20 Milinkovic-Savic, 21 Matic, 22 Ljajic (75’)
Substitutes: 3 Tosic, 4 Milivojevic, 5 Spajic, 6 Ivanovic 7 Zivkovic (75’), 8 Prijovic, 12 Rajkovic (GK), 14 Rodic, 16 Grujic, 18 Radonjic (82’), 19 Jovic (89’), 23 Dmitrovic (GK)
Brazil (4-2-3-1): 1 Becker (GK), 2 Thiago Silva, 3 Miranda (c), 5 Casemiro, 9 Gabriel Jesus, 10 Neymar,11 Coutinho (80’), 12 Marcelo (10’), 15 Paulinho (66’), 19 Willian, 22 Fagner
Substitutes: 4 Geromel, 6 Filipe Luis (10’), 7 Costa, 8 Augusto (80’), 13 Marquinhos, 14 Danilo, 16 Cassio (GK), 17 Fernandinho (66’), 18 Fred, 20 Roberto Firmino, 21 Taison, 23 Ederson (GK)