The final two teams to get their FIFA World Cup campaigns underway do so in the last of the four matches in the tournament on Thursday when the former champions Brazil go up against a dangerous Serbia side in Lusail.
Brazil never head to a World Cup without being favourites to win the tournament and that hasn’t changed this time around either. Serbia go to this event looking to really challenge for the first time rather than just give a good account of themselves.
Where to watch
It is back to BBC 1 for those in the UK for the last match of the day. The build-up to this contest begins at 6.30pm with the kick off coming along at 7pm.
An awful lot of people had Brazil down as their winners of the tournament before a ball was kicked and the early stumbling block that Argentina have tripped over have only strengthened those beliefs but the ‘Samba Boys’ don’t come here as the Copa America winners and that tournament was only a year ago so they might have something to prove in that respect. On the flip side, they did win the COMNEBOL qualifying section so their claims are fair enough.
This is a Brazil team that are so deep in attacking resources that Roberto Firmino couldn’t make the squad but it isn’t just about their attacking players. In Ederson, Brazil are probably going to have the second best goalkeeper in the world on the bench while several others couldn’t make the squad too. This is a high quality squad but it doesn’t matter how good you are on paper. Brazil need to perform on the pitch and having not won this trophy for 20 years they’ll be eager to lay an early marker down.
This will be the second successive World Cup that Serbia have been at but this time you get the feeling they have their eye on a really deep run and will be disappointed if that doesn’t come their way, rather than in previous outings when being here and being competitive would have sufficed. It is not just the improved squad and decent generation of players that will encourage Serbia, it is also the draw they have if they can escape the group.
The problem that Serbia have is that they have their toughest assignment first so they are likely to be playing catch up from the off which means they might need to adjust and go gung ho a little earlier than they would like in their last two games. They have some really good attacking options though and if they can hold their own defensively they could well achieve their aims and reach the latter stages of the tournament.
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Tite has kept his cards close to his chest over whether he is going to select Fred or Lucas Paqueta but with Serbia carrying a threat the Manchester United midfielder is probably likely to be favoured in a team which could see Gabriel Jesus playing through the middle.
Serbia are still assessing the fitness of Aleksandar Mitrovic after he missed the last couple of Fulham matches with a foot injury. Dusan Vlahovic featured in a friendly last week so he is expected to be available.
I think with the confidence that Serbia have after a really good year of results, they will arrive in this match fully intent on having a go and they have so many men who can sparkle in the attacking areas of the pitch that there is no reason why they can’t have any joy. This is an extremely strong Brazil attacking unit but you wouldn’t say they are fantastic defensively despite their defensive record. Thiago Silva is not getting any younger and if he plays Aleksandar Mitrovic could dominate them physically.
For all Serbia have improved, it is hard to see them keeping the back door shut against a Brazil team who can’t possibly fail to flourish even if they aren’t in top gear given the level of attacking talent they have on the pitch. I see these two as two offensive minded teams and that should see both of them having a bit of a go at each other. In fairness, we’ve seen that in all of the late games at the tournament so far and had Canada had their shooting boots on both teams to score would have landed in all of them. I think it can land here.
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