Brazil have made it through to the last 16 of the World Cup after beating Serbia 2-0 at the Otkrytie Arena. The five-time world champions began their campaign with a stutter but by the time they took to the field against Serbia – also contenders to qualify on the night – they were looking much more like their usual selves. The football was fast, fruitful and flowing – and suddenly fellow challengers for this year’s World Cup crown may be fancying a draw away from the South Americans for as long as possible. Neymar put in easily his best performance of the summer so far, and helped to inspire Brazil to the top of Group E.
This was by no means going to be an easy outing for Brazil of course. Serbia were still in with a shout at qualification ahead of kickoff, and a win for them could have seen Brazil join Germany at the airport for a flight home sooner than expected. Aleksander Mitrovic missed a couple of chances, especially after Brazil had taken the lead through Paulinho’s cool finish. The Barcelona midfielder made a wonderful lengthy run to get onto the end of club and country team-mate Philippe Coutinho‘s through ball, but Brazil’s opener certainly seemed to wake Serbia up somewhat. For all Mitrovic wasn’t able to convert his chances, the efforts he did have seemed to imply that Brazil are a side who can be “got at” in their defensive line.
Goalkeeper Alisson in particular looked unnerved, and was possibly the weak link in the Brazilian side despite the clean sheet. It was a tense evening of course, and so nerves quite possibly played a part in that – you don’t represent the Brazil football team if you aren’t any good after all! The victory means they are now headed for a clash with Mexico at Samara in the next round, with the fixture set for Monday.
The other side to advance in Group E were Switzerland, the European nation who had restrained Brazil in their opening fixture, earning an impressive 1-1 draw. They qualified thanks to a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica, who were unable to match the heroics of the 2014 tournament when they topped a group including three former world champions – Uruguay, Italy and England. They finished bottom this time with just the point they earned against the Swiss to their name. Switzerland will do battle with Sweden at 3pm on 3rd July at the Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg.
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