Apparently Filip Kostic is only fit enough for the bench, which explains what would have been a peculiar omission.
“We may all love Brazil,” writes Richard Hirst, “but tonight there’s a certain part of west London that will be forever Serbia: cos Mitro’s on fire!”
And he’ll be up against another hero of west London: Thiago Silva.
The players are on the field, ready for business. There are thousands of Brazil fans, most of them wearing the famous yellow shirt.
“What is your dream World Cup final?” asks Kurt Perleberg. “Mine is Brazil vs the USMNT.”
Portugal v Argentina would be lively, for obvious reasons, but I’d really like to see Brazil v Spain.
Serbia’s manager is Dragan Stojkovic, the man who produced one of the more delicious first touches in World Cup history. It’s after 2m22s, but you might as well watch the whole video.
Twenty minutes to kick off
It’s time for a reminder of why we all love Brazilian football
It’s a decent team that can leave this chap on the bench
“Hail fellow and well met, Ringo!” writes Aaron Roston. “Do you know what the attendance at the games has been like? I’ve seen a fair number of empty seats. Of course there’s the real attendance numbers and then there’s Fifa numbers… And Brazil would’ve won in 66 if Pele hadn’t been viciously fouled and knocked out of the tournament.”
Hmm, I’m not sure about the last point – weren’t they between great generations? Garrincha was sadly past it, Djamla Santos was 37, Jairzinho and Tostao were bairns.
As for the attendances, the empty seats are an optical illusion caused by your subconscious prejudice.
The first game in Group G was played earlier today. Switzerland, an awkward bunch whose presence makes this a tricky group to predict, beat Cameroon 1-0.
Jonathan Liew’s preview
Tite has taken the attacking option, picking Vinicius Jr ahead of Fred. That means Neymar moves infield to play as a No10, and Lucas Paqueta drops back alongside Casemiro.
Dragan Stojkovic has left the Juventus pair of Filip Kostic and Dusan Vlahovic on the bench, with Aleksandar Mitrovic up front.
Brazil (4-2-3-1) Alisson; Danilo, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Alex Sandro; Casemiro, Lucas Paqueta; Raphinha, Neymar, Vinicius Jr; Richarlison.
Substitutes: Weverton, Ederson, Fred, Dani Alves, Eder Militao, Fabinho, Alex Telles, Bruno Guimaraes, Gabriel Jesus, Antony, Rodrygo, Everton Ribeiro, Bremer, Pedro, Martinelli.
Serbia (3-4-2-1) V Milinkovic-Savic; Veljkovic, Milenkovic, Pavlovic; Zivkovic, Lukic, Gudelj, Mladenovic; Tadic, S Milinkovic-Savic; A Mitrovic.
Substitutes: Dmitrovic, Rajkovic, Erakovic, Maksimovic, Radonjic, Jovic, S Mitrovic, Babic, Kostic, Vlahovic, Racic, Djuricic, Lazovic, Ilic, Grujic.
Referee Alireza Faghani (Iran).
What comes next in this sequence: 4, 8, 24, 8, ?
It’s 4, right? No, of course it isn’t. Roberto Carlos pulled his socks up at the wrong moment and Brazil didn’t win the 2006 World Cup. We don’t know what comes next, but all connected with the Seleção will hope it’s 20. The sequence – as I’m sure you knew anyway, you heritage fan you – is the number of years between Brazilian World Cup wins since their first triumph in 1958.
They also won it in 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002. Since then: nada. Zilch. Bugger all. Not even a final. They’re overdue.
This the last chance for Thiago Silva to win a World Cup, probably Casemiro and Neymar too. Tite’s side are favourites to win Qatar 2022 – but they were also favourites in 1982, 1986, 1994, 1998, 2006, 2010 and 2014, so I’m not sure what the moral of this particular story is.
Their attacking options are such that the magnificent Vinicius Jr is not a guaranteed starter. Tite needs to choose between him or Fred, which isn’t the obvious duh-cision you might expect. If he picks Vinicius, Casemiro will be the only watercarrier in town, and Brazil have generally preferred pragmatism since Tele Santana’s idealists failed to win the World Cup in 1982 and 1986.
Brazil have been banging in the goals of late, even with a relatively pragmatic system – but then so have Serbia, who tick most of the dark-horse boxes. This is a really awkward first game for Brazil. Serbia qualified ahead of Portugal and also have serious options in attack, including Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic. They won’t fear Brazil; they don’t fear anyone.
It’s the last game of the first round of fixtures, and it could be a cracker.
Kick off 7pm GMT, 4pm in Rio de Janeiro, 8pm in Belgrade.