Viet Nam News
MOSCOW — Paulinho and Thiago Silva scored either side of halftime as Brazil secured top spot in World Cup Group E with a 2-0 victory over Serbia here.
Paulinho netted with a deft chip over goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic before Silva doubled the lead by heading in from a Neymar corner.
The result left Brazil with seven points from their three group matches, two points ahead of second-placed Switzerland, who also advanced to the round of 16. Serbia and Costa Rica were eliminated from Group E.
Brazil will now face Mexico in Samara on July 2 while the Swiss have been drawn against Sweden in Saint Petersburg the following day.
For Brazil, the victory was soured slightly by a back injury to defender Marcelo, who hobbled off the pitch in the opening minutes.
Although the scoreline might not have shown it, Brazil were barely troubled, save for a 10-minute period in the second half when Serbia laid siege to the South American side’s goal.
Brazil coach Tite was delighted with his team’s performance but said there was still room for improvement.
"I’m going to have a caipirinha tonight, I’ll allow myself," he told a news conference. "The World Cup is made up of human relationships, you have to feel how the dressing room is established, how the players interact, the responsibility the joy, the pride, you try to balance things out. If you’re hyper you try to slow it down if you’re a bit low you try to hype it up. In terms of the emotion of the team, there is still more to grow."
Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic admitted his side were outclassed but bemoaned wasted opportunities.
"You have to be alive for 90 minutes or else you’ll be punished," he said. "It’s difficult to play such an open game against a powerhouse of football like Brazil. We need to up our game, elevate the quality to a higher level, improve what is good and eliminate the weaknesses."
Brazil began the game full of energy and nearly went ahead in the fourth minute. Philippe Coutinho laid the ball off to Neymar who split Serbia’s defence with a one-touch through ball to Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City forward’s shot was saved but the rebound fell to Coutinho and the midfielder crossed to the onrushing Neymar, who sent his first-time effort just wide.
Marcelo was replaced by Filipe Luis in the 10th minute but the change did little to halt Brazil’s early momentum as Coutinho, Jesus and Neymar caused problems for Serbia’s defence, particularly on the left side.
The latter two combined superbly just before the half hour mark, but Neymar’s curled shot from a tight angle was tipped away by Stojkovic. The pair again showed uncanny understanding when the No. 9 ran onto Neymar’s pass and cut onto his favored right foot before his shot was blocked.
Serbia’s best chance of the first half came when Aleksandar Mitrovic sent a bicycle kick over the bar after Dusan Tadic’s cross from the left.
Brazil finally took the lead in the 36th minute when Paulinho latched onto Coutinho’s lofted 30-meter pass and lifted the ball over Stojkovic.
It was nothing less than Brazil deserved, having dominated for long periods of the first half.
The European side emerged from the interval with renewed vigor. Adem Llalic forced a finger-tip save from Alisson and the ball fell to Mitrovic whose shot was blocked by Silva.
Tadic’s delicate chip then sailed narrowly wide of the far post. Serbia had Brazil on the back foot and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic probably should have done better when he fired over with passing options available. Mitrovic then sent a powerful header directly at the goalkeeper.
But Brazil stood firm and scored their second goal against the run of play when Silva rose highest after a Neymar corner to head in at the near post.
Brazil had chances to make it 3-0 with Luis seeing his long-range shot punched clear by Stojkovic and Neymar sending a bouncing shot over the bar. — XINHUA