Who: Brazil vs Serbia, Group G
Where: Lusail Stadium
When: Thursday, 10pm (19:00 GMT)
FIFA Ranking: Brazil (1), Serbia (21)
Brazil and Serbia are locked in a World Cup group stage clash for the second consecutive edition. A lot has changed for both the teams since their clash in Moscow four years ago.
The growth of Brazil’s team is best exemplified by the fact that the opening goal in a 2–0 win over Serbia in 2018 was scored by Paulinho – who has not played for the national team in the past four years. Brazil’s midfield was ragged by Belgium in the quarter-finals that year and the way they were exposed kept them manager tight up at night,
Their midfield going into the current World Cup has been largely shuffled. In Fabinho, Bruno Guimarães and Lucas Paqueta – all of whom will make their World Cup debuts in Qatar – Tite has found the right balance in the middle of the park.
Brazil was a team in transition in 2018 with no clear identity. The shadow of their humiliation at the 2014 World Cup – when they were thrashed 7–1 by Germany in front of their fans in the semi-finals – still hung over the team and the country as a whole.
But, this time, there is a genuine excitement around the perennial favourite’s squad which in large part has to do with the attacking talent at their disposal.
neymar Arguably playing his best football at Paris Saint-Germain. Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli have been the keys to Arsenal’s resurgence this season. Vinicius Junior and Rodrigo are set to win the Champions League with Real Madrid. Add to this Rafinha, Antony and Richardson and you have a forward line made of equal parts fire and flair.
🗣️ “When I heard my name I couldn’t even speak, I cried for an hour. I was very happy, buzzing.
Gabriel Martinelli says he cried for an hour after learning he had been included in Brazil’s squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
— Connor Hamm (@TikiTakaConnor) November 12, 2022
The Seleção remained unbeaten in their World Cup qualifiers, making 45 appearances and conceding just five goals.
Serbia, like Brazil, has changed since the last World Cup. His second appearance was at the 2018 tournament World Cup in Russia. The squad was full of veterans, obviously in their prime and youngsters lacking the experience of playing on such a global stage. Unsurprisingly, they crashed in the group stages.
But the current side looks better equipped to handle the pressures of big tournament football. The old guard of Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic and Aleksandar Kolarov have retired and young player Those who were part of the 2018 squad have made huge strides in their development.
Aleksandar Mitrovic broke the record for most goals in an English season last year. He is currently one of the most dangerous strikers in the English Premier League. Filip Kostic played a key role in Eintracht Frankfurt’s Europa League triumph last season and sealed a transfer to Juventus.
Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has consistently been one of the best midfielders in Serie A. Serbian captain Dusan Tadic moved to Ajax after the 2018 World Cup and was a key member of their run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019. The emergence of striker Dusan Vlahovic – reports suggest Real Madrid and Manchester United are among those eyeing him – adds to the power forward of this Serbian attack.
Serbia finished top of their World Cup qualification group ahead of Portugal after scoring an impressive 18 goals in eight matches.
Serbia and Brazil rely heavily on their attacks and their backlines are rattled. Serbia have kept only three clean sheets in their last 14 official games. Meanwhile Brazil’s team lacks a wing-back position: Danilo, Alex Telles, Alex Sandro and Dani Alves don’t inspire confidence. His attack-minded nature can be exploited by Serbia’s pace wingers.
Brazil have entered the World Cup in excellent form and have not lost a match since last year’s Copa America final loss to Argentina. He has scored an astonishing 18 goals in his last five matches. Serbia has won four of its last five matches, scoring 14 goals.
All of which point to one thing: On Thursday, expect a high-scoring affair.