Brazil will be wary of a dangerous Serbian side when the teams meet at Lusail Stadium, especially after Argentina suffered a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia at the same venue on Tuesday and Germany lost to Japan on Wednesday.
The Brazilians have arrived in Qatar hoping for a repeat of what happened 20 years ago at the last World Cup in Asia, when they won their fifth title in Japan.
Tite’s side can rely on one Neymar who is in ominous form for Paris Saint-Germain, but the world’s most expensive player is surrounded by other excellent forwards willing to share the burden, such as Real Madrid duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.
“In my opinion, these players will help Neymar because they can divide the responsibility and create space for him,” said experienced Brazil captain Thiago Silva.
“The atmosphere in the squad is super healthy. The mix of young players and more experienced players creates a great bond,” he added.
However, Serbia looks like a more dangerous proposition than four years ago, when it also faced Brazil in the group stage, but lost 2-0 and went home in the first round.
“We are not afraid of anyone in the world, not even Brazil,” insisted Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic, who hoped prolific Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic would be fit for the Group G opener.
Switzerland and Cameroon kick off the action at 13:00 (1000 GMT) on Thursday in the same section at Al Janoub Stadium.
Swiss skipper Granit Xhaka indicated his party would not copy Germany’s mouth-covering protest against FIFA’s stance on rainbow-themed bracelets.
The Swiss were one of seven European teams whose captains had to wear the armband in support of LGBTQ people at the tournament in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
Germany made the gesture as they lined up for their team photo ahead of their shock 2-1 defeat to Japan after abandoning plans to have skipper Manuel Neuer wear the armband following threats of on-field disciplinary action by FIFA.
“I don’t think we need to do anything as a Swiss team. We have to respect the rules and concentrate on our football, that’s all I intend to do,” Xhaka said on Wednesday.
Ronaldo’s preparation for what will undoubtedly be his last World Cup has been overshadowed by his acrimonious departure from Old Trafford.
It was announced late on Tuesday that the 37-year-old would be leaving United with “immediate effect” after a candid interview with a British broadcaster in which he said he felt “betrayed” by the club and had no respect for the manager. Eric ten Hag.
His club form this season has been poor, but he is still hoping for one last chance at World Cup glory and Portugal are expected to start with a win at Stadium 974 on Doha’s waterfront against a Ghanaian side ranked 61st in the FIFA rankings.
Portuguese coach Fernando Santos claimed that Ronaldo’s divorce from United was not discussed by the players.
“The players are absolutely focused, with a great mind, convinced of what they have to do, what their goals are and realistic about the challenges they face,” said Santos.
“Winning a competition of this magnitude is difficult.”
Portugal and Ghana are in Group H with Uruguay and South Korea, who will meet in the other game on Thursday.
Son Heung-min can play for South Korea despite wearing a mask after facial surgery.
The Tottenham Hotspur striker and Korean skipper had surgery on a fracture around his left eye during a UEFA Champions League match earlier this month.
“Son can play and will be able to play,” said coach Paulo Bento.
Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano scored as Japan came from behind to beat Germany in Group E, while Spain started their campaign with a 7–0 loss to Costa Rica, with Ferran Torres scoring twice for the 2010 World Cup winners.
Belgium also got off to a winning start in Wednesday’s late game as Michy Batshuayi’s goal gave them a 1-0 victory over Canada, for whom Alphonso Davies saved a penalty.
Group F rivals Morocco drew 0-0 with 2018 defeated finalists Croatia.