Brazil will battle against Serbia in a winner-takes-all clash for a spot in the round of 16 at the Spartak Stadium on Wednesday.
Brazil and Serbia are set to go head to head against each other in their final Group E encounter, with qualification to the next round at stake, at the Spartak Stadium on Wednesday.
Despite not hitting top gear yet, Brazil have their noses in front in the race for progression. The Samba Boys are perched at the top of the group standings, following their dramatic late 2-0 victory over Costa Rica, that saw the Central Americans get eliminated.
With four points on the board from two games, Tite’s side will need a win or a draw to qualify for the knockout stages. They can still go through if they lose, provided second-placed Switzerland taste defeat in their final Group E encounter against Costa Rica.
Serbia, on the other hand, sit third in the table with three points from their two encounters, following their heartbreaking last-minute 2-1 defeat against Switzerland last week. And another loss on Wednesday would mean the Eagles will have to kiss goodbye to their dream of making through to the next round.
Mladen Krstajic’s men need all three points against the Selecao to be absolutely certain of going through, while a draw will see them depend on the result of contest between the Swiss and the Costa Ricans.
Tactics & Team News
Krstajic is expected to make no major changes to the personnel that he fielded against Switzerland last week, neither are there going to be any alterations in their tactical setup, meaning Serbia will go in with a 4-2-3-1 formation again.
Seasoned shot stopper Vladimir Stojkovic will have to be at the top of his game to keep the Brazilians from scoring on Wednesday. He will need all the help that he can get from the unchanged back four of Branislav Ivanovic, Nikola Milenkovic, Dusko Tosic and captain Aleksandar Kolarov. The full-backs will be in for a stern test, especially the veteran Ivanovic, who will be going up against the dangerous Neymar.
The hard-working midfield duo of Luka Milivojevic and Nemanja Matic will be tasked with keeping a lid on the Brazilian midfielders – chiefly Philippe Coutinho, who has been in tremendous form.
Dusan Tadic put in a solid display on the right-flank against Switzerland and will be looking to carry on from where he left off. Adem Ljajic could be set to return to the starting XI on the left wing, at the expense of Filip Kostic, who failed to make much of an impact against the Swiss. A lot will be expected of the talented Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who has been one of the Eagles’ most impressive performers in Russia.
Upfront, goalscorer from their last game, Aleksandar Mitrovic will retain his spot in the starting XI. The 23-year old was quite a handful to deal with against Switzerland and will hope to inflict some damage against the Brazilians.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Stojkovic; Ivanovic, Milenkovic, Tosic, Kolarov; Milivojevic, Matic; Tadic, Milinkovic-Savic, Ljajic; Mitrovic
The Selecao have been dealt with a blow, as winger Douglas Costa, who starred after coming on from the bench against Costa Rica and was in line for a start on Wednesday, will miss out due to an injury. He joins full-back Danilo out on the sidelines.
Tite, too, is unlikely to make any major tweaks to the team that clinched their first win of the World Cup 2018 last week. Alisson should once again guard the goal for the Brazilians, ahead of Manchester City star Ederson. Diminutive right-back Fagner will start once again in the absence of Danilo, while Marcelo will occupy the left-back slot and look to provide an outlet going forward. Thiago Silva and Joao Miranda will look to tackle the physical threat of Mitrovic in the centre of the backline.
Real Madrid star Casemiro will start as the defensive midfielder ahead of Fernandinho and look to guard his back four. He is likely to be the man given the task of keeping the dangerous Milinkovic-Savic under the wraps. Coutinho is a guaranteed starter on the left-side of the midfield three following his blazing start to the campaign.
However, there could be a change in the offing in the other midfield slot, with Renato Augusto likely to get a look in, in place of Paulinho, to add more fluidity and creativity to Brazil’s play going forward, which has been a bit lackadaisical so far.
With Costa injured, Willian will get another chance to make a mark from the right wing, while Gabriel Jesus will continue to spearhead the attack for the South Americans ahead of Roberto Firmino. On the left-side, talisman Neymar will be hoping to build on his late goal against the Costa Ricans.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Alisson; Fagner, Silva, Miranda, Marcelo; Renato Augusto, Casemiro, Coutinho; Willian, Jesus, Neymar;
- In total, Serbia (including as Yugoslavia), have faced Brazil on 19 occasions – winning just twice (D7, L10).
- Four of those 19 clashes came in World Cups, where their head-to-head record is perfectly balanced with one win each and two draws.
- This will be the second meeting between Serbia and Brazil with the former as an independent nation – their first encounter was in a friendly in June 2014, which the South Americans won 1-0.
- Brazil have only managed one victory in their last seven World Cup games against European opposition (D2 L4) – a 3-1 win against Croatia in 2014.
- Brazil are unbeaten in 13 matches (W9, D4, L0) in all competitions, conceding just three goals in that run.
- Neymar has been directly involved in 18 goals in his last 17 appearances for the Selecao (10 goals, 8 assists).
Player to watch
Philippe Coutinho (Brazil)
The Barcelona playmaker has been the hero for Brazil so far in their dodgy start to the 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign. From scoring a sensational goal in the opener against Switzerland, to the late strike against Costa Rica that set them on the path to a victor, Coutinho has been at the heart of every crucial moment for the Selecao in Russia so far.
The 26-year old has now found the back of the net in his last three international appearances and could once again rise to the occasion on Wednesday and be the difference maker for Brazil.
Serbia 1-2 Brazil
With so much at stake for either side, the contest between Serbia and Brazil promises to be a captivating encounter. Both teams will be out gunning for a victory in order to seal a place in the knockout stages. While Tite’s bunch of superstars haven’t hit the right note yet in Russia, their class and quality is undoubted. And this class is likely to shine through in Moscow on Wednesday as the Brazilians book a spot in the last 16 of the tournament at the expense of Serbia.