Moscow: Brazil cruised into the round of 16 of the World Cup like the five-time champion it is on Wednesday, outclassing Serbia, 2-0, on goals by Paulinho and Thiago Silva.
The Brazilians toyed with a game but over-matched Serbia, their skill on display, and earned a date with Mexico on Monday in Samara. The Mexicans, who flopped in their game against Sweden earlier in the day, surely will not be happy with that news.
Switzerland claimed second place in the group and will play Sweden next, on Monday in Rostov. Neymar, who finished Brazil’s last win, over Costa Rica, by bursting into tears of relief, left the field with a broad smile this time.
The Brazilians, still not in top form, were nonetheless pleased with the effort, and the bits of skills they showed off that make their games as much about opportunity as goals. Brazil outshot the Serbians, outpassed them and outdefended them, too — a good sign as they enter the knockout round of a tournament that suddenly has no true favorite.
That role may go to Spain, or a France that still seems not to have found its top gear. But Brazil will think they are favorites now, too. And few in the Brazil-heavy crowd at Spartak Stadium on Wednesday night perhaps even the Serbian fans who saw their team go out — would disagree.