Up against Serbia in their last group phase clash in Moscow’s Spartak Stadium, Brazil coach Tite has to find the key to unlock organized defending once again. Switzerland had reminded Neymar not everything is a stroll in the park and CONCACAF qualifiers Costa Rica made Neymar cry.
Now Alexander Mitrovic, an old-fashioned centre-forward with exceptional aerial prowess, appears on the horizon for defenders Thiago Silva and Miranda.
Mitrovic said: “There’s more pressure on Brazil, because they are not accustomed to this situation that they can fall in the first round. We have nothing to lose. And I think that as long as we’re in the game.”
Having managed to win just one of their last seven World Cup games against European opponents, Brazil face the incredible prospect of leaving Russia early. With four points from two games, they are neck and neck with Switzerland and just a point ahead of their Wednesday’s rivals.
ALSO READ: Neymar ‘entitled to feel upset’, says Fagner
Among past reversals, the Zidane-engineered 3-0 rout in the 1998 World Cup final stands tall. Four years later, Ronado’s act of redemption salvaged Brazil’s reputation with a 2-0 final victory against Germany. Since that night in Saitama, Brazil have faltered against France (2006), the Netherlands (2010) and hurtled into their darkest defeat – 1-7 against Germany (2014) at home.
History does not play on the field but it definitely does on the mind. To make matters worse, the World Cup in Russia has already been labelled as the graveyard of reputation.
The Canarinhos must arm themselves with plenty of gumption. Superior technical ability will be crushed under the severe pressing game of the Serbians unless Neymar, Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Willian express their optimum.
“Anxiety to score goals and win the game is affecting the health of my players,” Tite had said after the heartstopper against Costa Rica.
The Serbians definitely pose a bigger attacking threat than the Costa Ricans. In Dusan Tadic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, the breakaway nation that used to be a part of former Yugoslavia, has a tradition to be proud of. Nemanja Matic of Manchester United is the most famous name in the squad. The deep-sitting midfielder will be dealing with the Brazilian inroads.
Swaying from psychological frailty to stubbornness, Brazil must show they have the determination to live up to formidable challenges. The Serbian puzzle is a critical one for Tite to solve.