Serbia loses to Brazil 0:2 at their opening match, for a temporary break in the country’s World Cup euphoria.

Brazil v Serbia
Photo: FIFA, via the World Cup

The squad of Dragan Stojković was confident and compact, keeping the first halftime a goal-free zone, against Brazil’s shot after shot.Unfortunately, Serbia dropped the ball in the second half. Instead of showcasing their style, they proceded to lose themselves in the final 25 minutes. This was a match that wouldn’t determine anything, but that could seriously affect the energy for their upcoming performances.

It all seemed well. Perhaps, too well. A stable team lead by a stable coach, united by a clear competitive motivation. This didn’t end up being Serbia’s desired rematch for the 2018 World Cup. However, one post-match statement of coach Stojković stands out: “There is no shame in losing against Brazil”.

Motivation vs. Speed

From the opening statements to the anthems and beyond, Team Serbia seemed firm, announcing they wouldn’t just be participating in the match against Brazil. They were going for the win. Lead by captain Dušan Tadić the squad began offensively, but was quickly cornered by their speedy opponents. Brazil had both the dash and the melodrama, with flops that began in the initial 30 seconds.

Team Brazil were playing a very physical, somewhat surprisingly rough game, regardless of their individual built. They went against the tallest squad at the World Cup averaging 181,1m with full force. Fouls against Mitrović at the spot of his recent injury, then Vlahović and Tadić.

Serbia’s compact midfield offered continuous passes and initiative with no realisation. It wasn’t enjoyable, but it was efficient: no goals on either side. After the first hour the Eagles were back to their signature formation with two forwards. The transition into full offence gave them the necessary edge, but also showed a drop in stamina, during which Brazil managed to score.

The Iranian refs weren’t at the World Cup level, but they also weren’t the ones scoring. It was the amazing performance of Richarlison that bagged the win, as well as the goal of the tournament thus far. His second of the match was a true beauty and a point where Serbia’s defence simply froze.

Regardless of tonight’s defeat, this was an excellent showcase of keeper Vanja Milinković – Savić who made sure this fixture didn’t turn into a 0:4 for Brazil.

The squad of the iconic yellow jersey offered incredible broadness and a connection that ran from Alisson as the keeper, all the way to the strikers. This meant Brazil were able to potentially score from every corner. They may not be the “jogo bonito” from the days of Ronaldo and Rivaldo, but they absolutely are a force to be reckoned with. Brazil begins the World Cup with the status of an undefeated favorite, unlike Argentina, and a swollen ankle for Neymar.

Serbia on the other hand showed individual flaws in the final third of the match, safely concealed during the past six months of the World Cup euphoria. The lacklustre defence and imprecise offence, combined with the fact that the three key strikers are not fully healed, creates a rendition with a lot to wish for. Meanwhile, the recognisable Serbian quality remains.

“Brazil has excellent players. During the second half we completely dropped in the physical aspect. That factor was surprising. I couldn’t recognise our team. (…) You know we came to Qatar with many problems, many injuries in players that are key for the National Team’s game. Unfortunately, we have to accept this fact. “, said coach Stojković after the match, as Serbia begin preparing for their next World Cup matches against Cameroon and Switzerland.

Yes, tonight’s defeat may have been a cold shower for all Serbian fans, but that doesn’t mean all hope is gone. We sleep, we rest, we analyse, and then we move on.

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