Brazil v Serbia
Five-time winners and 19 times in the finals, Brazil have never lost their opener in 18 previous appearances, a record Tite’s side will doubtless be aware of and keen to maintain.
This Brazil side are both fluid in attack, creating a huge number of chances, but also defensively solid, conceding less than a goal every three games in the lead-up to Qatar.
Serbia comes into the World Cup flying high after a great qualifying and Nations League campaign. The White Eagles have been reborn under new manager Dragan Stojkovic & fans are hopeful that this World Cup will be different than past disappointing editions of the tournament.
Under Stojkovic Serbia has been playing some beautiful attacking football & will likely line up vs Brazil in their usual 3-5-2 formation, making the most of an array of attacking talent including Mitrovic, Vlahovic and Kostic, ably supplied by Milinkovic-Savic and Tadic.
On the defensive side though, Serbia is much less convincing. They only kept one clean sheet during their World Cup qualifying campaign & the teams open attacking play often leaves them vulnerable at the back. Serbia will have to fix their defensive issues if they want to hang in there with Brazil.
Neymar is the star of this very talented Brazil side and will naturally attract lots of attention from Serbia’s defenders. This should open up spaces for Richarlison, Vinicius Jr and Raphinha in the final third, making late runs through what could be a disorganised backline.
In that case, with runners breaking quickly through the lines, it is all too easy to give away a penalty, which Neymar would take. His career penalty strike rate of 88% puts him in elite company, and he would be heavily favoured to score if Brazil were to be awarded a spot kick.
It is also entirely feasible to see Neymar draw players away, lay the ball off and get it back once he has found to space to finish, as he has done so often at both club and international level. Even if Brazil were not to be awarded a penalty, this still has an excellent chance of landing.
It seems likely that Vinicius Junior will start this game. When he has been given the chance to play, he has averaged 2 shots per 90 minutes, and the quality of competition for places in the Brazilian front line means he will be desperate to showcase his abilities whenever he is on the field.
Playing on the left and linking especially well with Neymar and Richarlison, Vinicius likes to break through the lines into the area with a dribble to put him in position to slot the ball home.
He has averaged 0.1 goals to every 0.2 expected goals, so he is not the most efficient shooter, but he is consistently happy to take them despite this. For this reason, I recommend to back Vinicius for outright shots, rather than shots on target.
Nemanja Gudelj is a very aggressive, physical defensive-midfielder who is a tireless runner and constant thorn in the side of opposing players.
Gudelj is in charge of slowing down and stopping the opponents build up play, which he often does by committing tactical fouls. The experienced 31-year-old Sevilla midfielder loves to get into a challenge and relentlessly presses opposing players for the full 90 minutes.
Gudelj is always in the middle of the action, and he will no doubt have his hands full with all of Brazil’s various attacking threats. He knows his role and you can count on him committing his fair share of fouls just to relieve his side who are likely to be under heavy pressure for much of this game.
Written by an Andy verified content writer
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