The 2022 World Cup has saved its best for last as title favorite Brazil will be one of the last two teams to begin its group stage campaign in Qatar on Thursday.
Tite and Co. have long been framed as the frontrunners to take the spoils in the Middle East, and Serbia has the honor of being the first nation to test their mettle at Lusail Iconic Stadium.
The record-holding five-time world champions have the cards stacked in their favor as they seek to top Group G, but European hopeful Serbia would take no greater pleasure than scoring a mighty upset in its opener.
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The Selecao will be the last superpower to announce its arrival in Qatar and hope to avoid joining the recent spat of giant killings that’s taken place at this World Cup.
Japan’s 2-1 win over Germany on Wednesday was almost as unexpected as Saudi Arabia’s identical comeback against Argentina one day prior, showing no nation is untouchable.
Complacency could be a concern for Brazil, too, considering Neymar has already caught flak for announcing his country’s sixth World Cup triumph on social media.
This year’s tournament marks the first time Serbia will play in back-to-back World Cup finals as a sovereign nation, having last played in successive tournaments when it was part of Yugoslavia in 1962.
As fate would have it, the Serbs lost 2-0 to Brazil in Russia four years ago, marking the second time in as many meetings that it has lost to Tite’s side without a reply.
That record shouldn’t disguise the fact that Serbia possesses a treasure trove of attacking talent, although Fulham’s Aleksandr Mitrovic isn’t expected to start as he recovers from an ankle injury.
Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic and Fiorentina’s Luka Jovic will therefore be expected to form a two-man link up front, with captain Dusan Tadic likely to pull the strings from behind.