Efficient, dispassionate and ruthless: Brazil’s 2-0 win against Serbia was everything that 2014 wasn’t.
Back then, the Selecao had been swallowed by the event. At the Spartak arena, however, they did the job and nothing more, qualifying from their World Cup Group with the lowest number of goals scored since 1978.
On a night when Tite’s side looked lean and mean, here are the RealSport player ratings.
Vladimir Stojkovic - 5/10
Serbia’s goalkeeper made some decent saves but a decision to dash from his goal-line cost his countrymen dear as Paulinho lifted the ball over him for the opener.
Nikola Milenkovic - 5/10
A reassuring display was undone totally for Brazil’s second as Thiago Silva outmanoeuvred him to power home from a corner.
Milos Veljkovic - 5/10
Like his central defensive partner, Veljkovic showed a lack of positional awareness for the opener. Both he and Milenkovic found themselves marooned as Paulinho exploited the wide-open gap between the pair to chip deftly home.
Aleksandar Kolarov - 6/10
As Gary Neville observed for ITV during the interval, Aleksandar Kolarov is not a left-back. The Serbian is relentless offensively but he left far too many spaces in defence which were gobbled up by Willian.
Antonio Rukavina - 6/10
The Villarreal man got forward well and was solid enough in defence but he never looked settled against Neymar’s pillaging runs.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic - 6/10
As the rumours linking him with Manchester United intensify, Old Trafford might wonder exactly what it would be getting. ‘SMS’ didn’t get the message against Casemiro, who stifled him excellently.
Nemanja Matic - 5/10
On a night when Serbia needed his experience, Matic was largely anonymous. A typically tidy performance, he granted Philippe Coutinho too much space. Could have done with a more defence-minded partner.
Dusan Tadic - 6/10
Having just announced a return to the Eredivisie with Ajax, Dusan Tadic struggled to incite much in the way of attacking flair. Filipe Luis has shut out for more talented attackers than the Serb, who found a brick wall repeatedly in the Atletico man.
Filip Kostic - 6/10
Had more joy against Fagner on the left than Tadic on the opposite flank but his performance was typical of the team. Cute, tidy but largely inoffensive.
Adem Ljajic - 5/10
A wild card who failed to ignite. The Torino attacker made one decent cross before being hooked off in the second half.His talent is beyond repute, but his consistency sure ain’t.
Aleksandar Mitrovic - 6/10
Part-time footballer, part-time nightclub bouncer, Aleksandar Mitrovic looks like he’s had a rough 23 years. Didn’t really offer much in the way of physical threat against Thiago Silva and Joao Miranda, whilst his finishing was lamentable.
Luka Jovic - 5/10
Thrown on for the last few minutes when the result was already decided. Had no time to get involved.
Andrija Zivkovic - 5/10
Similarly to Jovic, lacked the minutes necessary to grow into proceedings.
Nemanja Radonjic - 4/10
A passenger for all of his eight minutes on the field.
Alisson Becker - 7/10
Was given little to do by a misfiring Serbian frontline and was largely unruffled until he spilled an effort in Mitrovic’s direction. A nervy moment that blots an otherwise assured display with some excellent punching.
Thiago Silva - 8/10
A titanic performance from a man who endured a frustrating season at club level last season. Even if he hadn’t head-butted in the decisive goal, he would still have been a contender for Man of the Match. Decisive, showing excellent anticipation and strength.
Joao Miranda - 8/10
A quietly solid shift. The Inter man is not as flashy as David Luiz, but can you remember the last time he made a mistake? Nor can Tite either.
Marcelo - 5/10
Substituted midway early in the first half, hobbling off with what looked like illness.
Fagner - 7/10
A favourite of Tite at Corinthians, Fagner augmented Willian well on the right-hand side. He was less robust defensively, but what the 29-year-old lacks on the back foot he more than makes up for in enterprising runs. No Dani Alves but no disaster either.
Casemiro - 7/10
The iron girder underneath Real Madrid’s fluffy mattress, Casemiro kept Sergej Milinkovic-Savic tucked up all evening. He hummed effectively for 90 solid minutes.
Paulinho - 7/10
Showed all the timing of his impressive start at Barcelona, breaking the Serbian offside trap to loft a wondrous opening goal. Hooked off in the second period as his legs began to fail.
Philippe Coutinho - 8/10
Neymar might be attracting all the headlines, but Philippe Coutinho has been equally impressive at this World Cup. The Barcelona man unleashed a delicious through ball for the opening goal and brimmed with attacking threat throughout.
Neymar - 7/10
Provided the assist for Thiago Silva’s winner, but was otherwise quiet in a performance that, at times, felt too individualistic. As the clock ticked down, he ignored better-positioned teammates in favour of seeking out his own goal.
Willian - 8/10
A flying performance, particularly in the second half. With the ball at his feet, Willian is simply impossible to contain and he held on to possession well on the break.
Gabriel Jesus - 6/10
A frustrating evening. The Manchester City man rarely threatened.
Filipe Luis - 8/10
No warm-up, no problem. Filipe Luis was thrust onto the pitch in place of Marcelo and impressed thoroughly from that moment on. A display that dripped with experience and know-how.
Renato Augusto - 6/10
A trundling ten-minute cameo from the man that plies his trade in China.
Fernandinho - 6/10
As Serbia began to rustle up some momentum, Fernandinho was brought on to introduce calm. He did just that, showing the kind of cool and composure that made him a stalwart at Manchester City all year long.
How do you think the teams fared? Let us know by commenting below.