World Cup: Brazil 2 Serbia 0 - 5 things you need to know

Serbia's goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic (left) attempts to save a shot by Brazil's forward Neymar during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Serbia and Brazil at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, on June 27, 2018.
Serbia's goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic (left) attempts to save a shot by Brazil's forward Neymar during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Serbia and Brazil at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, on June 27, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

Brazil never had to be at their fluent best to beat a hardworking and resilient Serbia side, who although were undone by two mistakes at the back, lacked the incisiveness to hurt the Selecao defence. It's been a somewhat unconvincing group-stage showing from the five-time champions, but they still finish top of Group E and have avoided the same humiliating fate as deposed world champions Germany.

1. THE GOALS

Brazil 2 (Paulinho 36th, Thiago Silva 68th) Serbia 0

2. THE WOW MOMENT

Philippe Coutinho's through ball which sliced open the Serbian defence for Paulinho to run through and flick the ball over goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic into the net. Although the opener was enabled by Serbia captain Aleksandar Kolarov's dithering on the ball, the weight on the pass was perfect from Coutinho, who has been the Selecao's shining light at the World Cup so far.

3. THE TALKING POINT

Aleksandar Mitrovic's profligacy. The Newcastle striker had three clear-cut chances but contrived to miss them when it seemed easier to score. Serbia had a good spell in the middle of the second half, but they simply could not capitalise.

Goals from open play have been hard to come by for the Balkan nation in this tournament, with only one in three games and their other goal being a Kolarov free kick. Still Serbia will surely rue the decision not to turn to the video assistant referee (VAR) when Mitrovic was wrestled to the ground in the box by two defenders in their 2-1 defeat by Switzerland.

4. THE STAR

With Neymar still working his way back to fitness and Gabriel Jesus a peripheral figure so far in Russia, Coutinho has been Brazil's main man so far. With two goals and one assist, expect more to come from Coutinho, who's champing at the bit to impress on the biggest stage.

His club side, Barcelona, have already earmarked a starting place for him next season with Andres Iniesta leaving and it is clear that the playmaker is ready to take his game to the next level.

5. WHAT THE RESULT MEANS

Brazil must be confident of facing Mexico in the round of 16, who have not progressed past that stage in seven straight World Cups. However, the Central American nation will be no pushovers and there are still kinks in Brazil's game that need to be ironed out.

Yet with Coutinho on fire and their central defensive partnership of Miranda and Silva looking tight so far, it is not hard to see why the betting favourites are that fancied. As for Serbia, it's been a credible showing despite their early exit, and with young talents like midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, 23, there is a firm base from which they can build on.