After Germany’s exit and Argentina’s nerve-shredding escape, Brazil made more serene World Cup progress on Wednesday when goals by Paulinho and Thiago Silva earned them a 2-0 win over an outclassed Serbia and a knockout tie against Mexico.
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.
The victory, and Switzerland’s 2-2 draw with Costa Rica, meant Brazil finished top of Group E on seven points, two ahead of the Swiss who will face Sweden in the last 16. Serbia ended third on three points and are eliminated along with Costa Rica.
Brazil took a while to find their stride against a physical Serbian side who briefly rattled their illustrious rivals, but once Paulinho put them ahead after 36 minutes they always looked comfortable and Silva’s 68th-minute header settled it.
“We don’t live by expectation, we live by reality,” Brazil coach Tite said when asked how he felt about his team now being tournament favourites.
“Because we did so well during the qualifiers and friendlies we created an excessively high sense of expectation, but the World Cup is a new cycle, a new format,” he added. “We are a team who withstand pressure, who have high-quality substitutes.—AP