Brazil joy of reaching World Cup last-16 made sweeter by demise of rivals Germany

A 2-0 win over Serbia saw the five-time champions take their place in the knockout stages as Group E winners on same day the side that beat them 7-1 four years ago made an early exit

Brazil players celebrates after their teammate Brazil's Paulinho, left, scores his side's first goal during the group E match between Serbia and Brazil, at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

For Brazil, if more for their fans than their football team, it was a night of double celebration.

Germany were out, Brazil were through. Their most probable final opponents, the only team who this month could move alongside them on five world titles, the most obvious obstacle as they sought to carry an unprecedented five to an unprecedented six. More importantly, the manufacturers of the Mineirazo.

Where Germany had prospered four years ago, the 7-1 shellacking in Brazil's backyard a seismic and seminal result, they ran aground in Russia. Not long after, Brazil defeated Serbia to finish top of Group E. They move ahead with hopes of yet more success; Germany, the reigning world champions no less, head home to pick over what went wrong.

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On Wednesday, what happened in Moscow magnified the collapse in Kazan. Germany finished bottom of their section, Brazil scaled theirs. On the same night their European rivals came a cropper against South Korea, Brazil battled past Serbia.

They won 2-0. Paulinho scored in the first half, then Thiago Silva added another in the second. As a result, the 2002 champions set up a last-16 clash against Mexico in Samara next Monday. Just like their supporters around the Spartak Stadium and on the metro around Moscow too, Brazil bounce on.

Yet it was far from straightforward. Serbia, themselves seeking a spot in the second round, were stubborn and sturdy. They held firm for most of the first half, but then Philippe Coutinho floated a ball on 36 minutes to Paulinho, who flicked his effort over goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic and into the net. It was a goal made in Brazil; made in Barcelona as well, carved by teammates for club and for country.

Still, Serbia improved after the break. Miranda had to be alert to clear an inswinging cross; Silva blocked when Aleksandar Mitrovic’s seemed set to head into an empty net. Soon after, Mitrovic directed an effort straight at Alisson. Heads apparently scrambled, Brazil scraped by.

Already without Marcelo, who departed early with a back problem, Tite tightened his tactics. Fernandinho replaced Paulinho. Almost immediately, Brazil had pushed wide their path to the knockouts. On 68 minutes, Neymar curled in his corner and Silva nodded home at the front post.

Brazil’s strut resurfaced. Filipe Luis and Neymar both went close. Far from convincing thus far, Brazil have convinced that little bit more through each of their matches. They have advanced, to the last 16 and perhaps beyond, and when all is said and done that is all that really matters.

To accentuate their delight, the Germans are gone. In contrast, for the night and the next few days at least, Brazil bound on.

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