Serbia - Brazil: World Cup 2018, Group E, game 3
Follow all the action from the Spartak Stadium as Serbia and Brazil play their final game in Group E both with a chance to progress to the last 16. KO 20:00 CEST.
Serbia 0-2 Brazil: match report
Brazil cruised to a last 16 spot on Wednesday night against a Serbia side who could not find a spark up front to trouble Tite's side. Neymar didn't score and didn't star but his manager did say it would take him five games to get back up to speed. He will have the chance to hit top form if his teammates continue to find ways to win without ever exceeding their brief themselves.
In a group where nobody was guaranteed qualification, all Serbia had to do was beat Brazil to assure themselves of a place and it became a straight knock-out tie.
They fell behind in the first half after Coutinho found Paulinho, who made a surging run from midfield and poked home the inch-perfect pass. The Barcelona stars linked up with the help of Gabriel, who made a savvy run to drag a couple of defenders out of the play.
In the second half, Serbia pushed for an equaliser and they had chances through Aleksander Mitrovic, in particular, with his header being clear by Thiago Silva.
As Serbia looked to be grabbing control of the game, Brazil hit them for six with Neymar sent a corner into the box and Thiago Silva buried it at the front post with a powerful header.
After that, it was game management from Brazil, who finished top of their group after Switzerland drew with Costa Rica in the other game. Brazil play Mexico with the Swiss landing a last 16 tie against Sweden.
Serbia vs Brazil live | World Cup 2018: as it happened
Serbia vs Brazil live | World Cup 2018: preview
Brazil came into this World Cup as one of the principle favourites to end victorious and head back to Rio on a wave of glory. But in what has turned out to be a group stage where few of the so-called 'big' teams have truly dominated, Neymar, Coutinho, Jesús and co. still have work to do to make it into the knockout stage. And Serbia have ambitions of their own.
Serbia captain Aleksandar Kolarov made it clear how much the World Cup means to players Tuesday, saying that his team's final group game against Brazil would be a once-in-a-career opportunity.
Serbia, third in Group E with three points, are one behind Brazil and Switzerland and need to beat the South Americans on Wednesday to qualify without depending on the result of the Switzerland-Costa Rica match which will be played at the same time.
International football is facing an uphill battle to compete with the riches of the club game, but Kolarov, who has won two English Premier League titles with Manchester City, said that nothing could match representing his country on the world stage.
"I'm getting towards the end of my career and this will be the most important game of my career," he told reporters.
"Players know what this is all about. This is a global stage, it's a once-in-a-career opportunity to shine.
"You always want to play the best in the world....you have to test yourself against the best and I am sure we will be prepared for that and will enjoy the moment."
There was also some fighting talk from Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic.
"We have no fear of Brazil, but we have to be patient, disciplined and play as a team," he said. "We have to satisfy the Serbian nation. We have shown we have the quality, we have a mix of seasoned players and young lads who will be playing for another 10 years for our national team."
"We have nothing to lose but if we are not ready to give our all, then we will have lost...You may lose, but you must not shirk your responsibility."
Brazil forward Neymar's tears at the end of the 2-0 World Cup win over Costa Rica should not be seen as emotional weakness, his coach Tite said on Tuesday, adding that he had also cried after games.
Neymar wept after Brazil scored twice in stoppage time to beat the Central Americans, a reaction that led the Brazilian media to suggest their team might be emotionally brittle.
"We mustn't think that a moment of emotion is a sign of emotional imbalance," Tite told reporters on the eve of the Group E match against Serbia where Brazil need a draw to qualify for the last 16. "I understand that there has to be a balance between reason and emotion, and there is a moment when you need ice, calm and lucidity," he said.
Tite then remembered that he also cried after Brazil won 3-0 away to Ecuador in a World Cup qualifier in his first match in charge two years ago.
"I want to tell the whole Brazilian nation that....I cried," he said. "When I called my wife, I cried with happiness, with satisfaction, because my characteristic is to be emotional. I cried with pride, as we were under so much pressure to play a good game."
Tite added that Brazil had refused to allow desperation to creep in as they pressed for a goal against Costa Rica -- a sign of mental strength.
"What is maintaining your gameplan? It's when you score a goal in the 91st minute by playing with the style the team has been playing since the start of the game. I was very happy with the way we reacted emotionally in the second half," he said.
Hoping to lead Brazil to a sixth world title, Tite said Neymar, who had a three-month injury layoff before the World Cup, needed one more game to reach full fitness.
"We are not placing an excessive responsibility on Neymar's shoulders for success or failure," he said. "It's the whole team which wins or loses."