Brazil fans
Football fans cheer with a Brazil’s flag at the Souq Waqif during the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament in Doha on November 23, 2022. Brazil face Serbia at the Lusail Stadium Thursday night, in their first match of the torunament. Image Credit: AFP

Brazil steps into the Qatar World Cup later tonight (November 24), and I’m on tenterhooks. True, they have one of the best teams in recent times, yet the shock wins of Saudi Arabia and Japan have worried me.

Actually, I shouldn’t be so concerned. Simply because Brazil packs far too much quality for Serbia. That’s no disrespect to the Serbs. It’s just that a team with the firepower of Neymar, Vincius Jr, Antony, Raphinha, Casemiro, Richarlison and others will find a way to win.

There’s a lesson in the defeats of Argentina and Germany. The two footballing giants failed to kill off the contests, allowing rivals to claw back into the game. The Latin Americans could point to the VAR offside decisions, but Germany generally failed to unlock the Japanese defence, and whenever they did, goalie Suichi Gonda was impregnable.

So Brazil should take a leaf out of the thumping wins of England and Spain: both sliced off their opponents without mercy. And that sent out a stern warning to their rivals. The Selecao, as Brazil are called, are formidable enough to send out a statement, and that should come against Serbia.

Opening games can be notoriously tricky, and this tournament has already seen two major shock results. That is a good enough reason for Brazil to start strong. But the Serbs are no pushovers.

The Serbia threat

Dragan Stojkovic’s team boast two prolific goalscorers in Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic, who will be fed from a midfield manned by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Dusan Tadic. Then there’s Filip Kostic and his accurate crosses from the left flank into the box.

That will give headaches to Thiago Silva’s defence. Silva, 38, is still a brilliant defender, and I only hope he’s not a step slower in catching up with the Serbia strikers. The midfield presence of Casemiro, 30, is certainly reassuring.

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But coach Tite’s problems start at the front. A problem of plenty. Who will he pick? Raphina, Vinicius Jr and Richarlison seem to be frontrunners, but they will face competition from Antony, Rodrygo, Pedro, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli. That’s a pleasant problem to have.

Then there’s Neymar. He is no Messi, and the Brazilian attack doesn’t revolve around him, which is a massive relief after the ignominious exits in the last two World Cups. This is not to discount Neymar’s calibre, but it’s comforting to know that there are others to pick up the gauntlet.

The world’s number one team enter the Lusail Stadium unbeaten in 15 games, which includes seven straight wins. I await the eighth with bated breath.

Bring on Serbia.