Serbia to face the might of Brazil in Group E match

World Cup 2018 Neymar Under Pressure As Brazil Aim Victory Against Serbia

Goals by Paulinho and Thiago Silva steered a much-improved Brazil to a 2-0 victory over a battling but ultimately outclassed Serbia on Wednesday and into a World Cup second-round meeting with Mexico.

Serbia must beat Brazil to qualify for the last 16; if they draw it would leave them relying on Costa Rica to comfortably beat Switzerland.

Gabriel Jesus had already forced a close-range block from Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic when Marcelo limped off the field after a back spasm on 10 minutes, but the early setback did not prevent Brazil seizing control of Group E nine minutes before half-time.

The Barcelona midfielder was replaced by the more defensive Fernandinho in the 66th minute as Serbia went on the attack in a bid to save their World Cup campaign.

For Serbia, Mitrovic was a direct force up front, while Tadic picked up where he left off against Switzerland, being a threat down the right. But Paulinho, the player that Tite calls his "secret weapon", lived up to his name by scoring the first goal at Spartak Stadium.

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And yet it was not the optimum performance of a Brazilian side tipped to win the tournament but it was a side that looked promising, exciting and entertaining, completely different from the side that labored against Switzerland and Costa Rica in the opening two games.

Neymar wasn't far away from doubling their lead on the stroke of half-time with a curling shot from 20 yards out that dipped just over the goal, after combining with Luis on the left.

Brazil extend their FIFA World Cup group stage unbeaten streak to 15 games on their way to topping Group E.

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.

The second goal for Brazil eventually arrived after 68 minutes as Thiago Silva lost his marker before glancing home a header at the near post.

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