Brazil win to set up last-16 tie against Mexico
Moscow: There were no World Cup shocks in Moscow as Brazil secured a 2-0 win against Serbia to progress to the knockout stages as Group E winners.
After Germany's surprise exit from the competition earlier on Wednesday all eyes turned to Brazil, another World Cup heavyweight with its progress not yet secured and one keen on making amends for their 7-1 World Cup semi-final thumping to the Germans four years ago on home soil.
The minimum needed from the Brazilians at the Spartak Stadium to make sure of their place in the next round was a draw. Goals in either half from Paulinho and Thiago Silva ensured the five-time champions added three points to their tally to top the group and set up a last-16 tie against Mexico.
Serbia had their moments, but Brazil had too much creativity and firepower in the final third to put their continued participation in this competition in doubt.
The Serbians were far from overwhelmed in the first half and while the attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus occasionally threatened, they did not terrorize. Instead, defensive errors proved to be Serbia's downfall.
In the 35th minute, a
delightful Coutinho pass over the top of Serbia's defence found Paulinho galloping through the middle and the midfielder converted from close range for his first goal of the competition.
It was a strike which eased Brazilian nerves and left Serbia needing two goals if they were to stay in the competition. The Serbians looked dangerous on the counterattack and in the second half they had opportunities against a sometimes unconvincing Brazilian defense.
Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose overhead kick in the first half sailed over the crossbar, headed a rebounded Alisson save straight at Silva when in the six-yard box.
The striker had another opportunity in the 64th minute, but his close range downward header was caught comfortably by Brazil's goalkeeper.
Mitrovic's profligacy proved to be costly. Despite Serbia being in the ascendancy, Brazil doubled their advantage when Silva headed Neymar's corner in at the near post.
The header punctured Serbia's hopes and from there on it was a question of how many Brazil would score and were it not for
Vladimir Stojkovic twice saving efforts from Neymar at point-blank range it could have been a heavier defeat for the Serbians whose World Cup is now over.