Brazil 2 Serbia 0 – job done

Goalscorers Paulinho and Thiago Silva enjoy the moment (Mowa Press)

Brazil weren’t at their best tonight, but they got the job done against Serbia. What next?

Brazil beat Serbia 2 – 0 in Moscow tonight thanks to goals from Paulinho and Thiago Silva. Philippe Coutinho set up Paulinho’s goal and was Brazil’s best player once again. Neymar was good in flashes and got an assist when his corner was headed in by Thiago Silva. At times though, he still slowed the game down unnecessarily and wasted a few chances to score. I was gutted that he didn’t, not least because I had a bet that he would.

With Serbia needing to win and coming out to attack, and Brazil calmer after their laboured win against Costa Rica, I though that this would be the game that Brazil, and Neymar, finally clicked. It didn’t really turn out like that though. They started the game well, but some of their slick passing moves broke down with sloppy touches from the likes of Paulinho and Willian. And because of that, they failed to build a head of steam.

Brazil can be brilliant on their day, but this isn’t one of the best Seleção teams ever to appear at a World Cup. Paulinho scored today but for me he doesn’t offer that much in defence or attack. Casemiro is as good as they come in the defensive role, and Philippe Coutinho is a top notch attacking midfielder, but nothing I’ve seen from Paulinho in this World Cup makes me think that he a world class box to box midfielder.

There are a few other ‘problem’ areas for Brazil. Now when I say ‘problem’ lets keep this in context. This is Brazil we are talking about: a country that has won the World Cup five times; is a conveyor belt of footballing talent; and churns out several superstars in each generation. Perhaps I need to lower my expectations – Brazil are through to the next round, they won the group and Germany are out. But when I talk about problems, I’m talking about Paulinho, the fact that Gabriel Jesus hasn’t scored a goal three games into the competition and that Willian was poor once again (although he improved in the second half).

An even bigger worry for Brazil though, is that the injuries are mounting up. Marcelo is one of their best players but he limped out of this match in the first half with a ‘spasm’ in his spine. It is unclear just how bad it is, and if he will be fit for the next game, but with Dani Alves already missing, losing Marcelo would be a massive blow. Douglas Costa was excellent when he came on against Costa Rica, but he missed tonight’s game with injury and it is not clear when he will be back either. That’s three potential starters out.

Brazil did the job tonight and their star player, Neymar, although he didn’t score, is such a big threat and showed some signs of improvement on the previous games. But the more I watch Brazil and the more crazy results that happen in this tournament, the more I suspect that need to be one of those World Cups when Brazil need to play ugly to win. Forget the joga bonito and think 1994.

Look on the bright side. Brazil have two of the best central defenders in world football and after his mistake against Switzerland, Alisson was his commanding self once again today. Another massive bonus for Brazil is that Germany are out after those incredible developments in Group F earlier today. Brazil will now play Mexico in the next round. Brazil may not be firing on all cylinders, but after Mexico got taken to the cleaners by Sweden, I expect Brazil to win that match. Hirving Lozano – that’s nice. But Brazil have got Neymar. Bring it on.

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