Who: Brazil vs Serbia, WOOD table
Where: Lusail Stadium
When: Thursday, 10pm (19:00 GMT)
FIFA rankings: Brazil (1), Serbia (21)
Brazil and Serbia meet in the group stage of the World Cup for the second time in a row. A lot has changed for both teams since their clash in Moscow four years ago.
Brazil’s development is best demonstrated by the opening goal in a 2-0 win over Serbia in 2018 scored by Paulinho – who has not played for the national team for the past four years. Brazil’s midfield was thrashed by Belgium in that year’s quarter-final and the way they performed has remained the same Tite manager stays up at night.
Their midfield ahead of the current World Cup has been significantly strengthened. With Fabinho, Bruno Guimarães and Lucas Paquetá – all of whom will make their World Cup debuts in Qatar – Tite has found the perfect balance in midfield.
Brazil is a team in transition in 2018, lacking a clear identity. The shadow of their humiliation at the 2014 World Cup they hosted – when they were thrashed 7-1 by Germany in front of fans in the semi-finals – still hangs over the team and the nation at large.
This time around, though, there’s a tangible enthusiasm surrounding the team of perennial favorites that have much to do with the attacking talent they have.
Neymar playing arguably his best football at Paris Saint-Germain. Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli have been key to Arsenal’s revival this season. Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo have just won the Champions League with Real Madrid. Add to that Raphinha, Antony and Richarlison and this is a forward line made up of fire and flair in equal parts.
🗣️ “When I heard my name, I couldn’t even talk, I cried for an hour. I was very happy, humming.
Gabriel Martinelli said he cried for an hour after learning he was called up to the Brazil team for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
– Connor Humm (@TikiTakaConnor) November 12, 2022
Seleção was unbeaten in World Cup qualifying, scoring 45 goals and conceding only five.
Like Brazil, Serbia has also undergone changes since the last World Cup. The 2018 tournament in Russia was only their second time participating in the World Cup. The squad is filled with veterans who are clearly past their prime and young players who lack the experience of competing in such a global arena. No wonder they were eliminated in the group stage.
But the current team looks better equipped to deal with the pressures of the big leagues. Former bodyguards Branislav Ivanović, Nemanja Matić and Aleksandar Kolarov retired and young player those who were part of the 2018 team have made great strides in their development.
Aleksandar Mitrović broke the record for most goals scored in a single season in England last year. He is currently one of the most feared strikers in the English Premier League. Filip Kostić played a key role in Eintracht Frankfurt’s Europa League victory last season and has signed a move to Juventus.
Lazio’s Sergej Milinković-Savić is consistently one of the best midfielders in Serie A. Serbian captain Dušan Tadić moved to Ajax after the 2018 World Cup and was a key member of the team that helped them reach the semi-finals of the 2019 Champions League. of striker Dušan Vlahović – reports suggest Real Madrid and Manchester United are among those keeping an eye on him – further increases the potential of this Serbian attack.
Serbia topped the World Cup qualifying group against Portugal, scoring an extraordinary 18 goals in eight games.
Serbia and Brazil rely heavily on their attacks and possess gaps in the backline. Serbia only kept 3 clean sheets in the last 14 official matches. Meanwhile, Brazil is lacking full-backs: Danilo, Alex Telles, Alex Sandro and Dani Alves do not create confidence. Their attacking nature can be exploited by Serbia’s nimble wingers.
Brazil entered the World Cup in excellent form and haven’t lost a game since the Copa America final lost to Argentina last year. They have scored an incredible 18 goals in the last five games. Serbia has won 4 of the last 5 matches, scoring 14 goals in them.
It all points to one thing: On Thursday, expect a high-scoring game.