Weblog: The football punter

Serbia look value to upset Samba Stars

The 2018 World Cup has been enhanced by several unpredictable results and there is the possibility of a major surprise at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, where Serbia take on Brazil.

A draw would be enough for Brazil to reach the round of 16, while Serbia are in a win-or-bust scenario unless there is a shock in Nizhny Novgorod where Switzerland are odds-on favourites to defeat already-eliminated Costa Rica.

Brazil are warm odds-on favourites to win the game and history is on their side.

The Samba Stars have lost only one of 38 World Cup group-stage matches and the exception, a 2-1 loss to Norway at France 1998, was inflicted after they had guaranteed top spot in the section.

Serbia had hoped to avoid needing anything from their last group match and were bitterly disappointed by the manner of their 2-1 loss to Switzerland on Friday.

They could only blame themselves for the poor defending which contributed to Xherdan Shaqiri's 90th-minute winning goal.

But the Serbs were pointing the finger firmly at referee Felix Brych midway through the second half after he inexplicably failed to a award a penalty when two Swiss defenders hauled Aleksandr Mitrovic to the floor.

A spot-kick would have given Serbia the chance to win the game, guaranteeing a last-16 place, and failure to award it provoked an angry response from Serbian FA President Slavisa Kokeza, who accused Fifa of bias and claimed his nation has been the victims of a 'brutal robbery'.

The danger for Serbia's players is that they also become consumed by the sense of injustice and forget they still have a shot at salvation.

Serbia lost their discipline late on against the Swiss but, for three of four halves of football at Russia 2018, they have played well.

If they get back to the standards produced in a slick first half against Switzerland, they could give Brazil some problems.

Brazil rediscovered their swagger towards the end of their 2-0 victory over Costa Rica but it took them until injury-time to get their noses in front.

They were held 1-1 by Switzerland in Rostov and there may still be a few nerves around with Tite's men one defeat away from becoming the first Brazil side to be eliminated at the group stage since 1966.

Spain – another of the fancied teams - went into their match against Morocco in a similar position, needing only a draw, and required an injury-time intervention from VAR to award an equalising goal to Iago Aspas.

The match showed that even the best teams can be affected by the nerves and pressure of a tense occasion and Serbia could take Brazil into similar territory if they stay in contention.

Brazil have the better quality attack and their talisman, Neymar, will be feeling happier after getting on the scoresheet.

Serbia may need a bit of luck to get the victory but it is far from mission impossible and, at the prices, there is value in opposing the favourites.

Serbia or draw double chance

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