Resurgent Brazil rolls past Serbia with 2-0 win

As Brazil comfortably dominated Serbia in front of a frenzied audience, fans can think of many words to describe La Selecao. You can call them sensational, explosive; or even legendary. However, the most accurate? bees.

The players, dressed in their traditional yellow Nike jerseys, pounced on an unresponsive Serbian team that looked doomed from the side. Relentless and relentless, they stung Serbia with some dangerous long-range shots that hit the post.

But the leader of Brazil’s offensive hive, Richarlison, was the one to kill Serbia. His rebound to open the scoring and his wonderful Chilean kick to finish it off earned him praise from all who watched the game. The commanding performance is a welcome change from his woeful 2018 campaign.

Richarlison double beats Serbia

It looked like Brazil would dominate from the start. Serbia sat on a low block, waiting for counterattacks, but for the most part, it didn’t work. Vinicius was about to put the ball inside the six, but Torino goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic pushed the ball away.

Other opportunities came. Milinkovic-Savic found Raphinha’s chip just after halftime with an excellent save, and continued to fend off the incoming wave of Brazilian attackers. Yet Brazil hit shot after shot, either into the tempting hands of the goalkeeper or off the crossbar.

However, it changed on 62 minutes. Neymar pushed his way through a horde of Serbian defenders in the box, swinging and diving before passing the ball to Vinicius. Once again, Milinkovic-Savic saved his shot, but was unable to stop Richarlison’s powerful rebound. Brazil 1, Serbia 0.

Richarlison continued his masterclass in the 73rd minute when he found himself with a rising ball ready to be struck. He pushed up with his left foot, twisted in the air, and hit the ball with his right. Not only was his final acrobatic, his precision is unmatched. His scissor kick went through the bottom left corner, out of Milinkovic-Savic’s reach.

After a brief second of shock, the fans roared with excitement at Richarlison’s shout. He celebrated his teammates and coaches on the touchline as Serbia looked on in fear. Brazil 2, Serbia 0.

The match ended with more of the same. Casemiro shot inside the post from outside the area, but was unable to divert the ball beyond the goal line. Brazil finished the game with 22 total shots and 59% possession; against a top-25 team, no less. They look as scary as ever. A deep run to the final seems more likely by the day.

Brazil looks comfortable on the world’s biggest stage

Brazil have a plethora of attacking talent to call upon, unlike many nations at this World Cup. With La Liga rivals Raphinha and Vinicius on either flank, and Neymar and Richarlison in the middle, Switzerland and Cameroon will find it very difficult to avoid conceding a goal.

But that could change ahead of a Group G clash with Cameroon.

Neymar, the heart of Brazil’s attack, suffered a sprained ankle late in the game against Serbia.

The injury came after Serbia fouled him nine times; the most of any other player in the World Cup. Beaten by a physical Serbian defense and exhausted after commanding Brazil’s hungry attack, he had to substitute.

“You can be sure: Neymar will play in the World Cup. You can be absolutely sure of this, Neymar will play in the World Cup!” Tite exclaimed at a post-game press conference. However, Tite’s overconfident statement and Neymar’s refusal to discuss his injury mean he could miss the Cameroon game, if not the entire group stage.

Neymar’s involvement is unparalleled. He touched the ball 81 times, the second most among forwards so far. Losing him would be disastrous, especially since Tite would have to modify his formation to not need an attacking midfielder. Is Brazil ready to play in a 4-3-3 on Monday?

Everywhere, Brazil looks ready. Brazil is led in defense by Alex Sandro, who had a whopping 103 touches (eighth so far in the World Cup). Brazil’s defense took advantage of Serbia’s mistakes, and the four Sandro, Marquinhos, Danilo and Thiago Silva had an excellent match.

The same was done by the midfielder pairing made up of Lucas Paquetá and Casemiro. The two won eleven games in total and were the main reason Serbia failed to reach the final third. Tite would not make a mistake by sticking with the Serbian line-up and replacing Neymar with a traditional central midfielder.

Neither Vlahovic nor Jovic in the starting eleven for Serbia

Surprisingly, neither Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic nor Fiorentina’s Luka Jovic started against Brazil. Serbia manager Dragan Stojkovic chose instead to start Fulham star Aleksandar Mitrovic as the lone striker and Ajax’s Dusan Tadic behind him as the lone midfielder.

The absence of Vlahovic in the starting eleven is especially surprising. He scored six goals and provided one assist in 10 Serie A games for Juventus before missing six games with an adductor problem. Despite missing a large part of the club’s season, Vlahovic returned for Serbia’s friendly against Bahrain, where he scored once and provided two assists.

The Juventus striker finally came into the game in the 66th minute as a left midfielder; a position in which he has virtually no experience. As expected, he didn’t have much of an impact in the match, he only touched the ball 10 times and lost multiple clashes on the left flank with Rapinha and Danilo.

Jovic’s omission is more understandable. The Fiorentina striker has just three goals in fourteen Serie A appearances, and has been out of Stojkovic’s favor for some time. But despite scoring in the friendly against Bahrain, he was on the bench for the full 90 minutes.

It will be difficult for Vlahovic and Jovic to break into the starting lineup thanks to the conservative formations that Serbia likes to play. They played a 3-5-1-1 against Brazil, a 3-4-2-1 against Bahrain and even topped a 3-5-2 against Norway.

Mitrovic is Serbia’s starting striker, something neither can challenge for the foreseeable future. If Serbia line up in a more aggressive position, Vlahovic could get a starting job alongside Mitrovic, and Jovic could get some playing time. But the future is cloudy for the three Serbian strikers.

Photo credit: IMAGO / Fotoarena

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