World Cup favorites Brazil are safely into the Round of 16 and have won Group E thanks to a strong 2-0 victory over Serbia in Moscow. This was a professional performance from the Seleção, who defended well, dealt with pressure from the Serbs and scored goals in vital moments to get a comfortable victory and prove that they are good enough to go far in the tournament. Philippe Coutinho was once again great from start to finish, and Paulinho scored his first World Cup goal in what was a very good night for the Barcelona boys in yellow.
We saw a very physical first half between two teams that knew how badly they needed not to lose, and they certain did not play to win. Brazil had the ball and the attacking intent, but Serbia were defensively solid and kept the Seleção from creating any real dangerous chances, apart from a great save by Stojkovic on an attempt by Neymar.
Serbia promised to be a threat from set pieces, but Brazil did a fantastic job of controlling the aerial game and goalkeeper Alisson’s best moments weren’t actual saves, but strong interventions on crosses. Brazil kept on going until they found a goal thanks to a wondeful pass by Coutinho to pick up a classic run from midfield by Paulinho, who chipped the keeper and gave Brazil the lead.
At haftime we didn’t see a great game of football, but Brazil were the only side trying to play and deserved to have the lead. With 45 minutes to go, they were very close to qualification.
Serbia needed to win this game to qualify, so they threw caution to the wind and began pressing high and sending plenty of long balls and crosses into the box hoping that striker Aleksandar Mitrovic would come up with the goods. He nearly did, in several occasions, but Alisson made good saves and kept Brazil’s lead in the first 20 minutes of the final period.
It did seem likely that Serbia could strike at any moment, however, so the Seleção made the win a certainty when Thiago Silva headed home a corner from Neymar to effectively kill the game, send Serbia home and win the group.
This was a strong performance from Brazil. Their best of the tournament, easily. They’re now going to face Mexico in the Round of 16, which should be a super fun matchup.
Serbia: Stojkovic; Rukavina, Milenkovic, Veljkovic, Kolarov; Milinkovic-Savic, Matic; Tadic, Ljajic (Zivkovic), Kostic (Radonjic); Mitrovic (Jovic)
Brazil: Alisson; Fágner, Thigo Silva, Miranda, Marcelo (Filipe Luis); Paulinho (Fernandinho), Casemiro, Coutinho (Renato Augusto); Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Neymar
Goals: Paulinho (36’), Thiago Silva (68’)