Brazil topped Group E thanks to goals from Paulinho and Thiago Silva, giving them a 2-0 win over Serbia in Moscow.
Unlikely goalscorer Paulinho opened the scoring for Tite’s side at the Otkrytie Arena in the latter stages of the first-half.
Despite a win and a draw in their first two games, Brazil still required at least a point against Serbia to avoid an embarrassing early exit from the tightly balanced Group E.
Those doubts were shunned away as they took the lead just shortly after the half-hour mark. Paulinho ran on to a brilliantly timed and weighted lofted through pass from Barcelona teammate Philipe Coutinho.
Free of the Serbian backline, the midfielder dinked the ball over the onrushing Vladimir Stojković to give Seleção a well-deserved first-half lead. They doubled their lead thanks to Silva’s powerful header.
Neymar’s corner was not destined to go any further than the near post and as Miranda ran distraction, bundling over two Serbian defenders, Silva was able to power his header home at the front post.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Brazilians in the first period, however. Tite’s side were forced into making an early change as Marcelo hobbled off with a back injury.
The Real Madrid full-back did his best to remain on the pitch but had to be helped off by two Brazillian coaches as he was replaced by his Atletico Madrid counter-part, Filipe Luis inside the first ten minutes.
After coming under criticism for not winning the fashion expected of the Seleção, Brazil looked at their best early in the first-half – ramping up the pressure on Serbia.
They missed a golden chance inside the first five minutes when Gabriel Jesus saw an early effort saved by Serbian ‘keeper Stojkovic. The Manchester City forward was, however, adjudged to be offside and the move was flagged as so.
Brazil eventually got their lead following Paulinho’s opener but found themselves under pressure from the energetic Serbs.
Mladen Krstajić’s side pushed and probed, winning a few late corners but were unable to register an effort on target. At the other end, they nearly found themselves two down.
Jesus danced with the ball at his feet in front of Antonio Rukavina, trying to carve out an inch of space. He was helped as the ball pin-balled its way into the path of Neymar, who forced Stojkovic to make a sprawling save across his six-yard box – albeit at a decent height for the veteran goalkeeper.
On the hour mark, Aleksandar Mitrovic almost drew his side level.
Alisson was forced into an awkward save from Rukavina’s dipping effort from the right side of the 18-yard-box but could only tip his save into the path of the striker.
The former Fulham loanee attempted to guide it goalwards but his diving header was scooped up by the Roma ‘keeper as he clutched the ball to his side chest with the relief of a mother finding her once lost child.
Alisson had little more to worry about as his teammates doubled their lead at the other end. Silva’s header was routine and allowed his side a buffer with to begin showcasing their samba skills.
Prior to being substituted, Coutinho slalomed inside defender with ease. Gabriel Jesus, who was going nowhere in particular at one point, danced and moved with the ball at his feet with swift movement rarely showcased outside of a high-level dance routine.
It wasn’t revealed if Tite’s side had heard the criticism labelled towards them from some corners after their opening two groups but their movement once they operated with a two-goal lead, suggested as if they had heeded it.
Avoiding an early exit means that Tite’s squad will be moving on to face surprise package Mexico in the last-16.
As for Serbia, they exit the tournament and head home with the first World Cup win – a 1-0 triumph over Costa Rica – in their pocket since 2010.
Some Serbian players will ultimately jet off on holiday, not worrying about their club sides for a few more weeks, with an air of rest and recovery behind them.
After this defeat, not many of them will head to Copacabana Beach to mix with other Brazilians as the 11 on the pitch in Moscow did enough to damage their World Cup progression hopes.