Scolari’s Samba Boys ready to face serious Serbia test
After making light work of Panama in their first pre-tournament friendly, Brazil are expecting a sterner workout against Ljubinko Drulovic’s star-studded Serbia side, and are odds-on 2/9 to secure the win.
Big Phil Scolari should be able to use his side’s performance against the European team as a more reliable yardstick than their schooling of the Central Americans, which was orchestrated by a revived Neymar.
The young Brazilian carries a nation’s hopes squarely on his shoulders, but showed no signs of the burden being too heavy, as he instigated the rout with a sublime free kick. He later combined dangerously with Hulk, turning provider with a back-heel assist, as Scolari’s Samba Boys put Panama firmly in their place.
Neymar is also expected to start the game against Serbia, with the former World Cup winning manager hoping to build his star man’s confidence and form, after a disappointing debut season for Barcelona.
As one of the most expensive players in the world, the prodigious forward failed to dazzle at the Nou Camp, staying firmly in the shadow of Real Madrid’s record-breaking signing Gareth Bale.
Hit by injury and finding himself at the centre of a sporting scandal surrounding his transfer to the Catalan Giants, the Neymar of Barcelona is a far cry from the brilliant boy who puts on a Brazil shirt.
With 31 goals for his country, at the still tender age of 22-years-old, Neymar has odds of 7/2 to draw first blood against Serbia. He is also 7/4 to be leading scorer in Group A, and act as the catalyst that spurs Brazil on to the final stages, where they are at 3/1 to take the trophy for themselves.
Integral to Scolari’s plans to seal a spectacular second World Cup win, is the fitness of Thiago Silva, Brazil’s most important individual component alongside Neymar, and Paulinho, another who eclipses his club form when his country comes calling.
After being rested against Panama, the latest is that the more defensively minded duo should make the cut against Serbia.
Famous for flair players, this Brazil team has remarkable depth in defensive midfield, with Scolari able to select from hard nuts Hernanes, Luiz Gustavo, Ramires and Fernandinho to play in the pivot positions if Paulinho is not available.
Chelsea’s Oscar, however, will not be present and accounted for, having left the Samba Boy’s camp to attend the birth of his first child, opening a place in attack for domestic teammate Willian.
Despite the tremendous quality Brazil can place on show, Serbia, at odds of 14/1 to spring a surprise on the home side, will not be simple cannon fodder.
They boast one of the most impressive line-ups that won’t be attending the World Cup finals, including full-backs Branislav Ivanovic and Aleksander Kolarov, who will be given plenty of space to exploit behind their adventurous opposite numbers.
Lazar Markovic, linked with Liverpool for £25m, will also be looking to shine against top opposition in the hope of securing an exit from Benfica. At 7/2 to score at any time, netting against the World Cup favourites may backfire and hike up his potential price.
Meanwhile Brazil’s bountiful options in midfield will not have it all their own way, as Chelsea terminator Nemanja Matic, and former Fiorentina man Adem Ljajic, seek to end their successful club seasons on a high.
Unbeaten in six matches, the Serbian side are also 14/1 to hold the hosts to a draw.