Brazil top group after win over Serbia
GB news 24 desk//
Brazil qualified for the knockout stage as Group E winners with a 2-0 victory over Serbia in Moscow on Wednesday night.
The victory, which eliminates Serbia, means Brazil will face Mexico in the round of 16 on Monday in Samara.
Needing to avoid a loss to advance, Brazil fielded the same XI as their 2-0 win against Costa Rica as Tite looked for improved understanding among his trusted starters.
And his patience with the unit nearly paid off in the fourth minute but Gabriel Jesus, breaking in behind the Serbia back line, was whistled for offsides though his one-on-one with Vladimir Stojkovic was well-saved by Serbia’s No. 1.
However, Tite would have to make an early change as left-back Marcelo exited in the 10th minute with back spasms and was replaced by Atletico Madrid’s Felipe Luis.
Neymar forced a save from a tight angle in the 25th minute, with Stojkovic doing well to palm his hopeful effort wide of the goal.
Jesus’ extra touch near the half-hour mark robbed the Manchester City striker of a clear chance after being played in behind the defence — his delayed right-footed shot from just outside the six-yard box hitting a recovering defender.
Paulinho made up for Brazil’s faulty finishing in the 36th minute — the marauding midfielder latching onto a perfectly-lobbed Philippe Coutinho pass before poking past a charging Stojkovic and giving Brazil an earned advantage.
Neymar was unlucky not to score 12 minutes after the restart — the excellent Coutinho finding the Paris Saint-Germain man racing behind the Serbia defence only to see his left-footed shot blocked by a quick-reacting Stojkovic.
Serbia enjoyed their best chance of the match four minutes later — Alisson touching a dangerous cross from the right straight at Aleksandar Mitrovic whose diving header was saved off the line by a defender before deflecting back into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Serbia again set off alarm bells moments later, but some desperate Brazil defending was enough to keep them out.
Mitrovic then towered over right-back Fagner near the 65th minute but only to fire his header straight at Alisson with the goal to shoot at.
Thiago Silva made those missed chances pay just three minutes later.
From a corner, the PSG defender guided his uncontested header past the keeper at the near post to put Brazil well in front.
Brazil will have five days before taking on Group F runners-up Mexico, who were stunned 3-0 by Sweden in their final group game on Wednesday.