Heavily fancied to bring home a record-extending sixth World Cup crown, Brazil kick off their Group G campaign against familiar foes Serbia on Thursday night.
The five-time world champions eased past the Serbs 2-0 in the 2018 opening stage on their way to topping the section ahead of another Group G contestant, Switzerland.
Seen by the bookmakers as the premier pick to lift the title in Qatar, Brazil’s star-studded squad boasting numerous top performers in Europe’s five-big leagues will accept nothing less than victory.
No matter the outcome, Thursday will be a landmark day for head coach Tite, who will become the first manager to lead the Selecao at back-to-back World Cups since Tele Santana in 1982 and 1986.
However, there’s no doubt Brazil will be looking to get things rolling from day one as they bid to bring the nation’s 20-year wait for the Jules Rimet trophy to a halt.
While FIFA’s 25th-ranked Serbia could not have asked for a sterner test at the commencement of their third World Cup campaign as an independent nation, there’s plenty of reason for optimism in the Eagles camp.
After coming through their World Cup qualification group unscathed (W6, D2), bookended by a stunning 2-1 win at Portugal on the final matchday, the Serbs will fancy their chances against the world’s best-ranked side.
Manager Dragan Stojkovic boasts a jaw-dropping attacking talent in his ranks, with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic looking to take Qatar by storm.
Poised to avenge the abovementioned fiasco in Russia, Serbia head into the tournament fresh from sealing promotion to UEFA Nations League A on the back of five straight Group B4 wins.
Also See: Switzerland v Cameroon preview.
As the only nation to have taken part in every World Cup tournament since its inauguration in 1930, you’d expect Brazil to make it out of the group stages for the 14th time running at the very least.
Inspired by some of Europe’s elite entertainers, the Brazilians have gone unbeaten in their last 15 matches in the World Cup group phase (W12, D3) since losing to Norway in 1998.
Then it comes as no big surprise that Brazil have earned a top-place finish in round one in every World Cup edition since 1982, including the ‘Russia 2018’ when they left Serbia and Switzerland in their wake.
Unlike their more prominent rivals, Serbia will be looking to progress beyond the World Cup group stage for the first time as an independent nation after back-to-back busted attempts.
While the Serbs have rarely encountered any problems qualifying for the tournament, having advanced into four of the last five World Cups, their nasty habit of flopping in the competition finals is a reason for concern.
Stretching back to 2006, they have suffered seven defeats in nine World Cup matches (W2), the most of all European teams and second-most among all nations.
Brazil vs Serbia Head-to-Head
In addition to beating Serbia four years ago, Brazil overcame them 1-0 in an international friendly in 2014 to ensure a 100% win ratio in the H2H stakes.
Thiago Silva, who will captain the Selecao in Qatar, scored the second goal that time Russia.
Brazil vs Serbia Potential Line-ups
Brazil (4-3-3): Alisson; Danilo, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Alex Sandro; Fred, Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta; Raphinha, Vinicius Junior, Neymar.
Serbia (3-4-1-2): Vanja Milinkovic-Savic; Nikola Milenkovic, Stefan Mitrovic, Strahinja Pavlovic; Andrija Zivkovic, Nemanja Gudelj, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Filip Kostic; Dusan Tadic; Dusan Vlahovic, Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Brazil vs Serbia Prediction
If Argentina’s horrific World Cup start is a sign of things to come, Brazil would be silly to take anything for granted despite stringing together seven victories in the build-up to the tournament.
However, since Serbia conceded in their eight qualification matches and kept only two clean sheets across their last three World Cup participations, Neymar & co may have a field day.
Underestimating Stojkovic’s frontline would be a rookie mistake, as Vlahovic and Mitrovic have shown this season that they can pack a punch on any given day.
We anticipate a Brazil win, accompanied by a goal from Serbia.
Brazil 2-1 Serbia
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