Serbia v Brazil
Wednesday, 19:00
Live on ITV

Last-chance saloon for White Eagles

Things change quickly in football and even more swiftly at World Cups. At half-time in their game against Switzerland, Serbia were in an enviable position, a place in the last 16 in their grasp thanks to Aleksandar Mitrović's fine early header. But the White Eagles crumbled after the break, allowing their opponents to find an equaliser and then, in the dying moments, a dramatic winner.
It leaves them with a mountain to climb: Serbia could technically qualify with a draw, but the mathematics of the group mean that a victory is most likely required. Wholesale changes are unlikely, although it wouldn't be a huge surprise were Mladen Krstajić to reinforce his midfield, given how open his side was in the second half of the Switzerland game. Filip Kostić, who had a quiet game on the left, would be the man most likely to drop out.

Brazil still searching for rhythm

If every successful team has get-out-of-jail-free card to use at a World Cup, Brazil used theirs against Costa Rica. As the clock ticked past 90 minutes, it looked like being another frustrating day for the Seleção, but late strikes from Philippe Coutinho and Neymar saved the day, meaning the pre-tournament favourites have their fate in their own hands once more. The knives that were being sharpened have been put away for now.
The optimists will say that Brazil's performance was far better than the result, and it's true that Tite's men might have won by a bigger margin had they taken their shooting boots to Saint Petersburg. But there were also reasons for concern: Willian and Paulinho were ineffective, and Neymar's histrionics suggested the squad may not be quite as psychologically stable as it appeared before the tournament.

Seleção can profit from Serbia desperation

For Brazil, this game will be different to their first two matches in one significant way: their opponents will, at some point or another, be obliged to attack. This should suit the Seleção, who are always more convincing when they have some space to work with, and you imagine Tite will have taken note of the quick transitions that led to the two Swiss goals.
Serbia are naturally more adventurous than Switzerland and Costa Rica anyway, and there's reason to think they can trouble Brazil's backline. But if they do need a goal in the second half, say, it's also easy to see them being picked off.
The 1.53 price on a Brazil win is not that persuasive, but adding in over 2.5 goals takes it to 7/5, which is good enough for us.

Ney can enjoy his day

Neymar has apparently been training with a lot more freedom in the last couple of days, free from pains in his foot and ankle. His display against Costa Rica wasn't superb by any means, but he is growing in sharpness and is likely to be the protagonist again for Brazil here. Odds of 1.90 is the price for him to take his tournament tally to two on Wednesday.

Opta stats

Yugoslavia included, Serbia and Brazil have met four times at the World Cup. Their head-to-head record is perfectly balanced with one win each and two draws. Another draw is 4.50.
Serbia and Brazil’s first ever World Cup appearance was in a match against each other in 1930 – Yugoslavia running out 2-1 winners. Serbia are 7.60 to win.
In total though (including as Yugoslavia), Serbia have faced Brazil on 19 occasions – winning just twice (D7 L10). A Brazil victory is 1.53.
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, Brazil winning 1-0. Brazil are 6.80 to win 1-0.
In all competitions, Brazil are unbeaten in 13 matches (W9 D4 L0), conceding just three goals in that run. Brazil are 2.40 to win to nil.
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. Serbia are 2.84 to avoid defeat in the Double Chance market.
As an independent nation, Serbia have lost each of the six World Cup matches in which they have conceded, winning the two in which they kept clean sheets. Brazil are 2.30 to win half-time/full-time.
Serbian forward Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored 18 goals in 26 games for club and country in 2018. Mitrovic is 4.00 to find the net.
Philippe Coutinho has scored in each of his last three appearances for Brazil. Coutinho is 2.88 to add to his tally.
Brazil’s Neymar has been directly involved in 18 goals in his last 17 appearances for the national side (10 goals, 8 assists). Neymar is 1.91 to score.
Back Brazil to win and over 2.5 goals at 7/5 (Sportsbook)

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