Brazil start their World Cup 2022 adventure at the Lusail Stadium with a Thursday night encounter with Serbia. Seleção Canarinho would hope to return to the arena in about three weeks’ time for the World Cup final.
But before that, they will have to deal with a tricky Serbian side that certainly pack a punch to surprise the big boys.
Brazil came to Qatar sitting atop the latest FIFA rankings. They did not taste defeat since their 1-0 loss to arch-rivals Argentina in the Copa América final in 2021.
To trace Brazil’s last World Cup group stage defeat, you will have to look as far back as the 1998 World Cup, when Norway claimed a surprise 2-1 victory over them.
But it has been twenty years since Brazil took the World Cup trophy home last.
This is the second-longest World Cup drought in their history since winning their first title in 1958. If Tite’s men fail to win it again, Brazil will match their longest World Cup drought of 24 years, which took place between 1970 and 1994.
Brazil are always part of the title equation regardless of their squad quality.
The current Brazillian team is arguably better than the last two Brazil World Cup squads. The South American side have immense depth in the attacking department, especially, with players like Raphinha, Rodrigo, Antony, Gabriel Jesus, and Gabriel Martinelli doubtful of getting adequate game time.
Brazil are on a seven-match winning streak with an aggregate score of 26-2.
Unlike most World Cup-playing teams, they did not take part in any friendlies in October and earlier this month. They thumped Tunisia 5-1 in late September, a few days after posting a 3-0 win against Ghana.
Serbia have been in the World Cup finals three times but never managed to survive beyond the group stages. But Serbia fans are highly optimistic that they will get to cross the group stage threshold in Qatar.
Under Dragan Stojković’s supervision, Serbia qualified for the World Cup finals by topping their group.
This year, they have secured promotion to UEFA Nations League A with an impressive return of four wins and a draw in six outings. Serbia have lost only once in their last 16 matches.
The Serbians will have to build on their European success to get the better of their Group G opponents and book a place in the round of 16.
An opening day tie with record-time world champions Brazil is far from ideal for any team. But the Eagles will try to rise up to the occasion and deal a big blow to Brazil’s title ambitions.
Reportedly, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Danilo, and Alex Sandro will form the Brazil rearguard in front of Alisson Becker on goal. Lucas Paquetá and Casemiro will patrol the midfield.
Neymar will be the playmaker behind Richarlison, who has recovered from a calf problem. Raphinha and Vinícius Júnior will operate on the wings.
Serbia have a number of attacking options at their disposal as well. Aleksandar Mitrović, who ranks fourth in this season’s Premier League top scorers chart, is likely to be on bench.
Luka Jović and Dušan Vlahović will pair up at the top of the pile. Strahinja Pavlović, Stefan Mitrović, and Nikola Milenković will form the back three.
Vanja Milinković-Savić is expected to get the nod at goal. Vanja’s elder brother Sergej Milinković-Savić will partner Nemanja Gudelj in midfield. Filip Kostić and Andrija Živković will provide attacking width and defensive cover as wingbacks.
Dušan Tadić, who will wear the captain’s armband, will take on the number 10 role.
Brazil and Serbia are no strangers to each other in the World Cup.
They met in Russia four years ago, when Brazil claimed a 2-0 win.
Serbia have become a much stronger side in recent years, so we donn’t expect Brazil to win the game easily. But, Brazil have too much quality and experience that will have them see the Eagles out.
We say, Brazil 2-1 Serbia.
Date: 25 November
Kick Off Time: 12:30 AM
Venue: Lusail Stadium.