Brazil head into the 2022 World Cup as favourites to lift the trophy for a sixth time and they get their Group H campaign underway on Thursday, November 24 against Serbia.
It will be the second match of the tournament played at Lusail Stadium — which will also host the final — and kicks off at 19:00 GMT (14:00 EST, 16:00 BRT & 20:00 CET).
BBC One will be showing the match in the UK with FOX and Telemundo holding the rights in the US. TV Globo and Casimiro are sharing the World Cup rights in Brazil while it is RTS in Serbia.
The referee for the game is Alireza Faghani. The Iranian is one of the more experienced officials in Qatar as he took charge of four games at the last World Cup, including the third-place play-off between England and Belgium.
Tite has arguably the strongest squad at the tournament at his disposal. The likes of Alisson, Marquinhos, Neymar and Vinicius Jr will all be hoping to extend Brazil’s lead at the top of the charts for the most World Cups won.
Given all the quality players that have been included in the squad, Roberto Firmino and Gabriel were unfortunate to miss out.
Heading into the first game, Bruno Guimaraes might not be fit to start after limping out of one of the first training sessions.
Serbia have gone under the radar somewhat as their squad is also quite strong, although not quite as strong as their first opponents’.
Aleksandar Mitrovic will be desperate to be fit for the first game after a recent foot injury and the Fulham forward has insisted he will be ready.
But Serbia are well-stocked in the attacking department with Dusan Vlahovic and Dusan Tadic among the forwards group.
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Brazil (4-2-3-1): Alisson, Danilo, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Alex Sandro; Casemiro, Paqueta; Raphinha, Neymar, Vinicius Jr; Richarlison.
Serbia (3-4-2-1): [Vanja] Milinkovic-Savic, Milenkovic, [Stefan] Mitrovic, Pavlovic; Zivkovic, Lukic, Gudelj, Kostic; [Sergej] Milinkovic-Savic, Tadic; Vlahovic.
What’s at stake?
As the team expected by many to win a sixth World Cup, a strong start for Brazil is important if they want to remain the favourites in Qatar.
Given the strength of their opponents in Group G, a defeat would be damaging, but Dragan Stojkovic’s side would be well-placed to progress to the knockout stage, were they to spring a surprise.
Brazil will come into the game as favourites, but this match could present interesting challenges for each team.
Tite’s side have become increasingly fluid since the last World Cup, with Neymar often operating in a free role either as a No. 10 or pushing further forward. Supported by a plethora of attacking talent including Lucas Paqueta, Vinicius Junior, Gabriel Martinelli, Raphinha, Antony, Richarlison and Gabriel Jesus, Brazil scored 13 more goals (40) than any other South American team in qualification.
Bruno Guimaraes, Martinelli, Antony and Richarlison winning the Olympics last summer should also provide belief for their younger inclusions.
Serbia can cause problems for Brazil even if Tite’s side dominate possession as expected. Aleksander Mitrovic is not their sole threat. The Fulham striker insisted he was near the end of his recovery from a foot injury last week, but even if he is not fit, Dragan Stojkovic has built familiarity with the Serbia squad on how they play.
They mostly used variations of a 3-4-3 and 3-5-2 in qualifying. Quick breaks were key for them, as they had more direct attacks (19 attacks starting in their half and ending in a shot or touch inside the opposition penalty area within 15 seconds) than any European team in qualifying.
Andrija Zivkovic and Filip Kostic also provide threat as wing-backs, either whipping in crosses to Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic, or clipping passes over the top for the latter to chase.
Brazil should assert themselves on the game early on but need to be aware of the threats Serbia pose.
Art de Roché
Brazil to beat Serbia.
Brazil to win: 64%. Serbia to win: 15%. Draw: 21%.
All of our predictions for the 2022 World Cup are powered by Nielsen’s Gracenote, who have used a proprietary football ranking system to estimate the chances of different results for every possible match through extensive simulations, to assess the chances for each team to reach different stages of the tournament.
Reason to watch
It’s Brazil at the World Cup, what more reason would you need?
With exciting attacking players and solid defensive options, it is easy to see why the Selecao are favourites.
Serbia definitely won’t lie down in the presence of potential winners though, and a fit, feisty Mitrovic up top is sure to make them stubborn opponents.
Neymar’s role is in the spotlight, while the fitness of Mitrovic is dominating the agenda for Serbia.
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(Photos: Getty Images)