Brazil beat Serbia to book date with Mexico in round of 16

Neymar EFE

The five-times champions rarely hit the heights against tough, dogged opponents who had qualification hopes of their own but, in this World Cup of shocks and late drama, Brazil will be delighted to have made it through a potentially awkward game with the minimum of fuss.

Those misses were promptly punished in the 68th minute when Neymar sent in a corner from the left and Thiago Silva rose at the front post to beat Nikola Milenkovic to the ball and power home a header.

Then with his defence beaten, Brazil goalkeeper Alisson palmed a save straight at Aleksandar Mitrovic, but the Serbia forward could only head the ball back into the grateful arms of the Brazilian shotstopper. On the hour mark he failed to clear well a cross that put the ball on a plate for Mitrovic and the shotstopper was fortunate that Thiago Silva was on hand to clear.

"In the second half we tried to play with more risk", Serbia coach Mladen Krstajic said. But Paulinho, the player that Tite calls his "secret weapon", lived up to his name by scoring the first goal at Spartak Stadium.

Tite's team went into the game knowing a draw would be enough to see them through, while the Serbs needed a win to guarantee progression for them to the last 16 in Russian Federation. "I have to be aware of the evolution I have undergone in these last four years". I am here because I worked and I deserve it.

Brazil had an early setback when left back Marcelo was substituted in the 10th minute, limping off the field.

This was a more assured performance from Brazil compared to its first two group matches.

Serbia need a win to guarantee a place in the knockout rounds, while Brazil would go through with a draw.

Brazil will now face Mexico in Samara on July 2.

In all competitions, Brazil are unbeaten in 13 matches (W9 D4 L0), conceding just three goals in that run.

But now they are up and running, manager Tite will be confident of beating Serbia and topping the group.

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