Brazil 2-0 Serbia: World Cup 2022 – as it happened

Last modified: 09: 14 PM GMT+0

Richarlison scored twice, the second a spectacular volley, as Brazil started their campaign with an emphatic victory

That’s it for tonight, but we’ll be back in about four hours’ time for Wales v Iran.

I’ll leave you with Jonathan Liew’s report from Lusail Stadium. Thanks for your company and emails – goodnight!

Neymar update The word is that he was taken off as a precaution after receiving one kick too many. He was fairly quiet tonight, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he missed the remaining group games. But they’ll want him for the knockouts, obviously.

Update: maybe it’s a bit worse than that.

Preocupante imagen de Neymar en el banquillo de Brasil. Recibió este entradón y tuvo que ser sustituido.

— Albert Ortega (@AlbertOrtegaES1) November 24, 2022


Watch it to the end

Ah man, respect to Dragan Stoikovic showing his appreciation for Richarlison’s goal even though it came against his team.

— Daniel Harris (@DanielHarris) November 24, 2022

“It takes two to tango,” says Peter Oh, “but only one to samba.”

The Brazil players celebrate in front of their delirious fans at full time.
The Brazil players celebrate in front of their delirious fans at full time. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


Full time: Brazil 2-0 Serbia

It took a while, but that was ultimately an emphatic win for Brazil. Richarlison scored both goals in the second half; the first was a tap-in, the second an acrobatic belter. Both were made by Vinicius Jr, who was both electric and precise on the left, while the imperious Casemiro ensured that Serbia got nowhere near the Brazil defence.

Casemiro was the outstanding player this evening in Doha.
Casemiro was the outstanding player this evening in Doha. Photograph: Bagu Blanco/Pressinphoto/Shutterstock


90+5 min Brazil’s raft of young attacking substitutes are really enjoying themselves, and they are likely to be a big threat as the competition progresses. Imagine defending against Vinicius Junior, Richarlison and Neymar for 80 minutes and then being introduced to Martinelli, Jesus and Rodrygo.

90+3 min Danilo is limping heavily, though there are some suggestions that it’s just cramp. Brazil have used all five subs.

90+2 min Tadic’s lobbed cross is missed by Alisson, flapping overenthusiastically at the far post, but he gets away with it.

90+1 min “Richarlison scoring a brace for Brazil, nothing surprising,” says Yash Gupta. “He’s a wonderful footballer and most important, a good man. Got injured when his club team needed him but that’s life. His second goal today was something else. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer man, at least in that Brazilian squad. Second win for him in November already.”

Nottm Forest fans will surely be nodding in approval.

It was was a special goal from Richarlison.
It was was a special goal from Richarlison. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters


90 min There will be seven minutes of added time.

89 min Martinelli heads over under pressure from Danilo’s cross.

88 min Martinelli makes an instant impact, running 60 yards down the left before sliding a low cross that just evades Antony in the middle.

88 min Out, pick this.

Oh Richarlison STOP THAT 😱🔥 #BBCWorldCup #BBCFootball

— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 24, 2022

87 min The in-form Gabriel Martinelli replaces Raphinha, which probably means Antony will move to the right wing.

On comes Gabriel Martinelli for his World Cup debut.
On comes Gabriel Martinelli for his World Cup debut. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters


87 min Antony slithers past two players on the left and picks out Rodrygo on the edge of the area. He takes a touch and whips a curling shot just over. Rodrygo has looked really good since coming on.

86 min Serbia look absolutely shattered, even with five subs.

Serbia look out on their feet.
Serbia look out on their feet. Photograph: Andrej Isaković/AFP/Getty Images


85 min Brazil have had 22 shots to Serbia’s three, and 10 on target to Serbia’s none. Serbia almost have their first when Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s low drive from 20 yards takes a deflection and spins behind for a corner

84 min “Do you think they took Richarlison off before he could score a hat trick and further steal all the attention from Neymar?” says Andy Bradshaw.

I think they were just playing the long game, especially as he has had a calf problem, but your interpretation is much more entertaining.

83 min Milinkovic-Savic makes another good save, this time to push a rasper from Fred round the post. Serbia bring off Aleksandar Mitrovic and bring on Nemanja Maksimovic.

82 min Moments later, Milinkovic-Savic makes a smart save to deny Rodrygo. It took a while, but Brazil have been terrific since they took the lead.

82 min: Casemiro hits the bar! That would have capped a tremendous individual performance. Jesus laid the ball square towards the onrushing Casemiro, 22 yards from goal. He opened his body to sidefoot a languid curling shot that beat Milinkovic-Savic and thumped off the crossbar.


81 min Neymar was limping a bit as he left the field, though nobody seemed too worried.

Neymar looks upset on the bench as he comes off.
Neymar looks upset on the bench as he comes off. Photograph: Kieran McManus/Shutterstock


80 min Gabriel Jesus and Antony replace Richarlison and Neymar.

78 min These teams are next in action on Monday. Serbia have a mustn’t-lose game against Cameroon in the morning; Brazil face Switzerland in the afternoon.

Neymar surges forward, closely monitored by Serbian defenders.
Neymar surges forward, closely monitored by Serbian defenders. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


76 min A double change for Brazil: Fred and Rodrygo replace Lucas Paqueta and Vinicius Jr. Before the game, we weren’t sure whether Vinicius would start. Good job he did: he made both goals and was dangerous throughout.

This is a wonderful goal from Richarlison. It was made by Vinicius Junior, who moved menacingly to the left edge of the area and flicked a typically precise low cross to Richarlison, lurking with intent near the penalty spot. He cushioned the ball up in the air, then twisted to slap an acrobatic volley into the bottom corner. That’s a magnificent goal – not just the finish, which was spectacular, but also the nonchalant, outside-of-the-boot pass from Vinicius. He has become incredibly good at picking people out in the penalty area.

Brazil have arrived.
Brazil have arrived. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters


GOAL! Brazil 2-0 Serbia (Richarlison 74)

I’ll show you jogo bonito!

That is a lovely goal from Richarlison.
That is a lovely goal from Richarlison. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images


73 min Serbia have had a lot more of the ball since going behind, and Brazil are about to bring Fred on in response;

72 min “Everyone remembers *that* semi-final, and with good reason, but I trace Brazil’s 2014 failure back to the Confederations Cup warm-up the year before,” says Grant Tennille. “Watching their celebrations it was hard not to think, ‘Hang on a minute lads, this isn’t the real thing!’”

I’d completely forgotten that. They hammered Spain didn’t they, and with the original Fred on fire.

70 min A brilliant corner from Tadic leads to a desperate game of head tennis in the six-yard box. Eventually Marquinhos heads it away and Lazovic spanks into orbit from 20 yards. There were a couple of really good defensive headers in there before Marquinhos was able to partially clear.

69 min Radonjic’s cross is put behind for a Serbia corner. Tadic’s outswinger is headed over by Pavlovic, who couldn’t get a clear header because of the presence of Thiago Silva.

67 min Brazil miss a very good chance on the break. Neymar leads a two v one but delays his pass to Vinicius and is tackled. Vinicius retrieves the ball himself, only to slip and slice his shot well wide.

It happens to the best of us.
It happens to the best of us. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images


66 min That was Richarlison’s eighth goal for Brazil in seven games this year.

66 min: Double substitution for Serba Dusan Vlahovic and Darko Lazovic replace Lukic and Mladenovic.

64 min Casemiro manhandles Tadic, and Lukic implores the referee to show a yellow card. He does, to Lukic for dissent.


It was coming. For the first time in the game, it felt like Serbia were hanging on. Neymar tried to make some space on the left side of the area, then overran the ball. Vinicius Junior crashed a surprise first-time shot that was wonderfully saved by Milinkovic-Savic, low to his left, but Richarlison beat Pavlovic to the rebound and tapped it into the empty net.


It had been coming...#BBCFootball #BBCWorldCup

— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 24, 2022
The Brazilian team do some sort of waddling celebration.
The Brazilian team do some sort of waddling celebration. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


GOAL! Brazil 1-0 Serbia (Richarlison 63)

Richarlison continues his hot streak!

Richarlison pokes it home.
Richarlison pokes it home. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian
Goal for Brazil!
Goal for Brazil! Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters


60 min: Sandro hits the post! Almost a goal out of nothing. The left-back Alex Sandro, who has been quiet as an attacking force, moves forward and cuts across a terrific shot from 25 yards that beats Milinkovic-Savic and bounces up to hit the post.

Alex Sandro pings one against the post!
Alex Sandro pings one against the post! Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images


59 min Brazil drew their first game of the 2018 World Cup, 1-1 v Switzerland. Before that they had won every opening game since Clive Thomas blew his whistle in 1978.

58 min Tadic’s cross is headed behind for a rare Serbia corner. He takes it himself, curling a wicked inswinger that is headed up in the air at the near post. The clearance is completed by another Brazilian player beyond the far post.

58 min “I think that Serbia in this game knows exactly how to play their cards against Brasil,” says Ayana Solaka. “It seems to be that their game plan is preventing Brasil from scoring a goal, so they are more focused on defense than they are on offense. I have a feeling Brasil is lacking in cohesiveness as a team which is leading to a bunch of small mishaps. This is going to be a tough game! Hoping for a Brazilian win though.”

Yes, I suspect Serbia’s plan was to stay in the game as long as possible and try to steal a point, or three, in the last 10-20 minutes.

57 min: Double substitution for Serbia Ivan Ilic and Nemanja Radonjic replace Gudelj and Zivkovic.

55 min: Chance for Neymar! Vinicius receives the ball on the left edge of the area, looks up and slides a precise low cross towards Neymar. He takes it first-time with his left foot, 12 yards out, and clodhops it well wide of the near post. That was a brilliant ball from Vinicius

54 min Vinicius scorches past Milenkovic on the left, then cuts inside Veljkovic and flips a cross into the middle. Nothing comes of it but that was lovely wing play.

53 min Pavlovic makes a terrific last-ditch tackle on Raphinha in the area. Had he got that wrong it would have been a penalty and probably a second yellow card.

52 min “Coming from a bar in Brasília,” writes Jack. “The crowd are really booing Neymar! Seems even jogo bonito doesn’t trump support for Bolsonaro!”

51 min The corner ricochets off a couple of players at the near post and breaks for Richarlison, whose close-range snapshot is blocked.

Neymar swings in the corner.
Neymar swings in the corner. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters


50 min The free-kick is 20 yards out, a fair way to the left of centre, so perfect for Neymar…


49 min Casemiro wins the ball on halfway and snaps a pass into Neymar. He makes straight for the area and is about to enter it when Gudelj takes him down. A clear yellow card, and a good opportunity for Brazil.

48 min Raphinha has had Brazil’s two best chances. We haven’t seen a replay of that recent opportunity but it looked like a pretty good save.

47 min “Never mind Richarlison, Raphinha, Martinelli and Jesus. How much could they use the sneaky guile of Firmino?” muses Matt Dony. “Not that I mind him having a month off…”

46 min: Chance for Raphinha! Brazil almost score after 35 seconds. The keeper Milinkovic-Savic played a dreadful pass towards Gudelj that was nicked by Raphinha, but he made up for his error by spreading himself to make an excellent point-blank save.

Serbia's goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic saves from Brazil's Raphinha.
A big chance for Raphinha but he’s thwated by Serbia's goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


46 min Peep peep! Serbia get the second half under way. Neymar spends the first 18 seconds of the half doing his shoelaces up.

“How are Raphinha and Richarlison ahead of Martinelli and Jesus?” asks Andrew Hurley. “Raphinha was hardly earth shattering at Leeds, Richarlison can’t start (mostly) for Spurs, and they’re ahead of two stars of a team with the best start in a premier league in years.. watching these two and thinking of the level of the Arsenal pair this season...”

Martinelli doesn’t really play on the right, does he? Richarlison ahead of Jesus is largely based on form for the national team. Richarlison has scored seven goals this year; Jesus has one in the last three years. That said, I know who I’d least like to defend against.

Richarlison scores goals for Brazil.
Richarlison scores goals for Brazil. Photograph: Tolga Bozoğlu/EPA


Half-time reading

The whataboutery World Cup took an unlikely twist today, when Carlos Queiroz channelled his inner David Brent.

“Having been a fan of Oxford United for the last 30 years I can assure you that constant fouling is a part of most of the English game as well,” says Michael Chilcott. “Not sure about this ‘South American football = fouling and cheating and am everyone else is pure’ stuff.”

I don’t know where you’ve got that image of English football from.

Half time: Brazil 0-0 Serbia

Peep peep! Tite picked five attacking players, seven if you include the full-backs, eight if you count Casemiro’s passing – but a resilient, well-organised Serbia restricted Brazil to only one clear chance for Raphinha.

See you in 10 minutes for the second half.

It’s been a bit of a slog for Brazil in the first half.
It’s been a bit of a slog for Brazil in the first half. Photograph: Bagu Blanco/Pressinphoto/Shutterstock


45 min There will be one minute of added time.

45 min I’d love to know how many touches Richarlison and Mitrovic have had between them. It’s not in triple figures, that’s for sure.

43 min “Is it just me,” writes Chris Barry, “or does the Brazil coach Tite remind anyone else of Harry Grout from Porridge?”

Harry Grout
‘Big tickle, that last job of yours. I hope the money’s safely stowed away.’ Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock


41 min Serbia almost pay the price for daring to attack. Brazil break, with someone (I DON’T KNOW OKAY) hammering a long pass downfield. Milenkovic tried to hook it over his shoulder, just inside the area, but kicked it against Vinicius Jr. He ran through on goal and was about to shoot when Milenkovic made a fine recovery tackle.

39 min Possession-watch: Brazil 60-40 Serbia. It feels closer to 70-30, but there you go. Either way, Serbia will be almost entirely chuffed with how the first half has gone.

37 min Tadic plays a return pass to the underlapping Zivkovic, whose very deep cross is headed wide by Mladenovic (I think). An eighth chance at best.

36 min “The days of the creative attacking Brazilian team are long gone,” writes Jeff Sachs. “All that’s left is the constant fouling … a hallmark of South American soccer today.”

35 min: Chance for Raphinha! Brazil should be in front. Raphinha swaggers infield from the right, plays a gorgeous one-two with Paqueta but then sidefoots tamely at Milinkovic-Savic from about 15 yards.

Raphinha must do better from that position.
Raphinha must do better from that position. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters


34 min Serbia’s formation is theoretically 3-4-2-1, but at the moment it’s more of a 5-4-0-1. Still, it’s working.

31 min Raphinha takes a corner short to Paqueta, who returns it with a stylish backheel. Raphinha crosses low to the near post and Milinkovic-Savic grabs the ball in front of Thiago.

30 min Casemiro arrows a superb pass towards Raphinha on the right side of the area. He heads it across the area and Milenkovic heads behind. Casemiro’s passing is a farce.

Football Weekly department

Any questions on Brazil Serbia for @bglendenning @jonawils and @JFfutbol - here's a good place for them... x

— Max Rushden 💛🖤 (@maxrushden) November 24, 2022

27 min: Terrific goalkeeping from Milinkovic-Savic! Thiago Silva, the old rogue, walks forward unchallenged and slices a forensic pass to put Vinicius through on goal, but Milinkovic-Savic is so quick off his line and dives bravely at Vinicius’s feet.

Serbia keeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic denies Brazil's Vinicius Junior.
Brilliant goalkeeping from Milinkovic-Savic to deny Vinicius Junior. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


26 min “The most irritating aspect of the Brazilian national team for the last three decades or so is their constant tactical fouling,” says Kári Tulinius. “For instance, it seems they take turns kicking whichever Serbian player has the ball near the halfway line, stopping attacks before they develop. It’s effective, but deeply annoying, and why I’ve never warmed to them.”

Yes, it’s interesting that, in the last 30 years, Brazil have been the world’s chief exporter of defensive midfielders. I don’t think they even acknowledged their existence until the late 1980s.

The balletic twinkletoes of Gilberto Silva in the 2002 final.
The balletic twinkletoes of Gilberto Silva in the 2002 final. Photograph: Patrick Hertzog/EPA


25 min That’s a bit better from Serbia. Tadic moves down the right and angles a deep cross towards Mitrovic. Alisson comes from his line to claim with authority.

24 min Serbia look pretty comfortable defensively, but they haven’t yet given Alexsandar Mitrovic anything to feast on. It’s an intriguing game rather than an exciting one.

23 min “Hi Rob,” says Kevin Dwyer. “As a young apprentice electrician in 1966 I was inspired, along with several on my fellow apprentices, by the England victory in the World Cup Final. Six of us decided to save up £4 per week out of our meagre wages to attend the 1970 World Cup. Two of us stuck with it despite the siren call of music, drink and women. As a 21-year-old I watched all of the England games plus the final in the Azteca stadium. I’ve seen the greats of that era in the flesh, and the laissez-faire attitude of the time saw us mingling with the players in their hotels.

“The years rolled on and the doctors told me that the last World Cup would almost certainly be my last one too. Here I am, still enjoying the Guardian’s coverage of the game waiting for the updates to pop up in the timeline.”

Well that’s my favourite email of the World Cup so far.

21 min Casemiro hits a curler from distance that is comfortably saved by Milinkovic-Savic.

Casemiro has an effort on goal saved.
Casemiro has an effort on goal saved. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Reuters


21 min Neymar hits a stinger from 30 yards that is blocked by Veljkovic. That was beautifully struck.

20 min Paqueta loses the ball to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who tries to launch a break but is instantly dispossessed by Casemiro.

19 min “As it is Thanksgiving here in the USA, I want to give thanks to Richarlison for more or less single-handedly keeping Everton up last season,” says Matt Burtz. “And I want to thank Brazil for having some of the best uniforms in all of sports.”

Brazil fans display a cardboard cutout of Neymar and are generally having a lovely old time.
Brazil fans display a cardboard cutout of Neymar and are generally having a lovely old time. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


17 min Serbia enjoy their first extended spell of possession. They don’t look overawed, even if they haven’t yet bothered Alisson.

I am Aleksandar Mitrovic, hear me roar.
I am Aleksandar Mitrovic, hear me roar. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


More Brazil shirts in Lusail tonight than could fit in the whole stadium where the US played on Monday.

— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) November 24, 2022

14 min: Neymar almost scores from the corner! And I’m pretty sure he meant it. He spotted Milinkovic-Savic wandering towards the six-yard line and curled a wicked inswinger under the crossbar. Milinkovic-Savic scampered backwards to tip it over.

13 min The first thrilling run from Vinicius Jr. He scorched past Zivkovic, who recovered well to concede a corner with the help of Veljkovic (I think).


12 min Danilo loses the ball near the halfway line, Casemiro wins it back with the minimum of fuss. He really is a majestic player.

10 min “Genuinely thankful for the Guardian MBM,” says nobody, ever Rachel Clifton. “The Fox coverage here has been dreadful - awful analysis, complete grovelling to Qatar (surely nothing to with the national airline sponsoring the coverage / giving them free flights)... wishing my Spanish was better so I could watch Telemundo instead.”

9 min Casemiro lends the ball to a few people in quick succession and then arrows a superb disguised pass to Neymar in the area. He controls it deftly but doesn’t have time to get a shot away and then runs into trouble. That was a helluva pass from Casemiro.


8 min Sergey Milinkovic-Savic makes a beeline for the Brazil area and is stopped on the edge by Marquinhos.

8 min “Just wondering if it’s true that we ‘all love Brazil’?” says Ed Rostron. “They’re still dining out on that jogo bonito reputation but there’ve been an awful lot of cynics, cloggers, cheats and clowns in their sides over the last 30 years. I don’t know if they’re the neutrals’ favourites these days: remember how we all laughed when Germany, normally the pantomime villains, obliterated them in their own back yard?”

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled…

6 min Pavlovic is booked, maybe a little harshly, for a foul on Neymar.

Iranian referee Alireza Faghani (right) shows a yellow card to Serbia's defender Strahinja Pavlovic for a foul on Brazil's Neymar.
Strahinja Pavlovic goes in the book early doors. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian


5 min “Dream World Cup final?” muses Simon McMahon. “Scotland v England, obvs. But that can’t happen, not this time at least. So, USA v Iran. Failing that, India v Pakistan.”

4 min The first bit of excitement. Raphinha loses Pavlovic on the right and drives a low cross that is kicked away at the near post.

Raphinha jinks past Strahinja Pavlovic.
Raphinha jinks past Strahinja Pavlovic. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images


3 min A slow start, nothing much to report. Brazil look to be playing with a 6 (Casemiro), an 8 (Paqueta) and a 10 (Neymar) – an increasingly popular system used by, among others, Arsenal men and England women.

1 min Peeeeeeep peeeeeeep! Brazil kick off from left to right as we watch.

Apparently Filip Kostic is only fit enough for the bench, which explains what would have been a peculiar omission.

“We may all love Brazil,” writes Richard Hirst, “but tonight there’s a certain part of west London that will be forever Serbia: cos Mitro’s on fire!”

And he’ll be up against another hero of west London: Thiago Silva.


The players are on the field, ready for business. There are thousands of Brazil fans, most of them wearing the famous yellow shirt.

Nearly there.
Nearly there. Photograph: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images


“What is your dream World Cup final?” asks Kurt Perleberg. “Mine is Brazil vs the USMNT.”

Portugal v Argentina would be lively, for obvious reasons, but I’d really like to see Brazil v Spain.

Serbia’s manager is Dragan Stojkovic, the man who produced one of the more delicious first touches in World Cup history. It’s after 2m22s, but you might as well watch the whole video.

Twenty minutes to kick off

It’s time for a reminder of why we all love Brazilian football


It’s a decent team that can leave this chap on the bench

“Hail fellow and well met, Ringo!” writes Aaron Roston. “Do you know what the attendance at the games has been like? I’ve seen a fair number of empty seats. Of course there’s the real attendance numbers and then there’s Fifa numbers… And Brazil would’ve won in 66 if Pele hadn’t been viciously fouled and knocked out of the tournament.”

Hmm, I’m not sure about the last point – weren’t they between great generations? Garrincha was sadly past it, Djamla Santos was 37, Jairzinho and Tostao were bairns.

As for the attendances, the empty seats are an optical illusion caused by your subconscious prejudice.

The first game in Group G was played earlier today. Switzerland, an awkward bunch whose presence makes this a tricky group to predict, beat Cameroon 1-0.


Team news

Tite has taken the attacking option, picking Vinicius Jr ahead of Fred. That means Neymar moves infield to play as a No10, and Lucas Paqueta drops back alongside Casemiro.

Dragan Stojkovic has left the Juventus pair of Filip Kostic and Dusan Vlahovic on the bench, with Aleksandar Mitrovic up front.

Brazil (4-2-3-1) Alisson; Danilo, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Alex Sandro; Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta; Raphinha, Neymar, Vinicius Jr; Richarlison.
Substitutes: Weverton, Ederson, Fred, Dani Alves, Eder Militao, Fabinho, Alex Telles, Bruno Guimaraes, Gabriel Jesus, Antony, Rodrygo, Everton Ribeiro, Bremer, Pedro, Martinelli.

Serbia (3-4-2-1) V Milinkovic-Savic; Veljkovic, Milenkovic, Pavlovic; Zivkovic, Lukic, Gudelj, Mladenovic; Tadic, S Milinkovic-Savic; A Mitrovic.
Substitutes: Dmitrovic, Rajkovic, Erakovic, Maksimovic, Radonjic, Jovic, S Mitrovic, Babic, Kostic, Vlahovic, Racic, Djuricic, Lazovic, Ilic, Grujic.

Referee Alireza Faghani (Iran).



What comes next in this sequence: 4, 8, 24, 8, ?

It’s 4, right? No, of course it isn’t. Roberto Carlos pulled his socks up at the wrong moment and Brazil didn’t win the 2006 World Cup. We don’t know what comes next, but all connected with the Seleção will hope it’s 20. The sequence - as I’m sure you knew anyway, you heritage fan you - is the number of years between Brazilian World Cup wins since their first triumph in 1958.

They also won it in 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Since then: nada. Zilch. Bugger all. Not even a final. They’re overdue.

This the last chance for Thiago Silva to win a World Cup, probably Casemiro and Neymar too. Tite’s side are favourites to win Qatar 2022 – but they were also favourites in 1982, 1986, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2014, so I’m not sure what the moral of this particular story is.

Their attacking options are such that the magnificent Vinicius Jr is not a guaranteed starter. Tite needs to choose between him or Fred, which isn’t the obvious duh-cision you might expect. If he picks Vinicius, Casemiro will be the only watercarrier in town, and Brazil have generally preferred pragmatism since Tele Santana’s idealists failed to win the World Cup in 1982 and 1986.

Brazil have been banging in the goals of late, even with a relatively pragmatic system – but then so have Serbia, who tick most of the dark-horse boxes. This is a really awkward first game for Brazil. Serbia qualified ahead of Portugal and also have serious options in attack, including Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic. They won’t fear Brazil; they don’t fear anyone.

It’s the last game of the first round of fixtures, and it could be a cracker.

Kick off 7pm GMT, 4pm in Rio de Janeiro, 8pm in Belgrade.



Rob Smyth

The GuardianTramp

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