Brazil vs. Serbia: 6 Things We Learned
Brazil finished their preparations for the 2014 World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Serbia in Sao Paulo's Morumbi Stadium. Forward Fred provided the winning goal on the night.
While the performance left some in the crowd wanting more, Luiz Felipe Scolari and his side will be content to have picked up another win ahead of coming tests against a Serbia side worthy of respect.
The Selecao now have six days to prepare for their World Cup opener against Croatia, which will also take place in the city of Sao Paulo.
What, then, can be learned from Friday night's encounter?
Brazil's Full-Backs Need a Reminder of Their Role
Brazil's attacking full-backs are great to watch, marauding forward and contributing to the side in the final third of the pitch. However, a crucial part of their success last summer at the Confederations Cup was their commitment to defending.
While it was only a friendly clash, both Marcelo and Dani Alves were poor in their defensive work on Friday evening. Too often in the first half Serbia were able to create chances having found space in wide areas.
Of the two, Dani Alves was particularly culpable of a lack of discipline when it came to tracking back.
Serbia wasted fantastic opportunities and, with a bit more composure, could easily have taken the lead on a couple of occasions. Better opponents will not be so forgiving.
Paulinho's Form Is a Real Worry
From January onward, when fit, Paulinho appeared to be running on empty in his first season in England, with Spurs fans growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of energy in his performances.
Having missed Tuesday's clash with Panama, this was his chance to silence those doubters, but, once more, he was well below the standards he had set throughout 2012 and 2013 with club (Corinthians before Tottenham) and country.
For Scolari, it is now a real worry and, indeed, the presence of Fernandinho in the squad, who looked much more authoritative when introduced, gives him a viable alternative.
Croatia have one of the best midfield units at the World Cup, and Brazil cannot afford anyone coasting their way through the clash next Thursday.
Poor Pitch = Poor Game
Sadly, the game was little to write home about as a spectacle, with the quality of play well below par from both sides. However, there is a legitimate excuse in the shape of the pitch.
The playing surface at the Morumbi was woeful and seemed to cut up with increasing regularity as the game went on. That the stadium is not in use at the World Cup is a real relief.
With Brazil's players days away from the biggest games of their lives, there was a real reluctance to risk injury as the surface deteriorated, and the result was a game that delivered little as a spectacle.
Oscar May Have Competition from a Familiar Face
Oscar was not initially meant to start this game, with Felipao having decided the player could have time off following the birth of his first child. However, short of form in recent months, the Chelsea man chose to be available for selection.
Sadly, though, his commitment did nothing to silence doubts about his current performance levels. At his best, Oscar is the heart and soul of the Brazil side, but this was a second subpar showing in the space of a few days. At club level, also, he finished the season with a whimper.
Scolari believes completely in his star's ability, but cannot have failed to notice the difference following the introduction of Willian at half-time. For the first time in the game, Brazil had pace and movement in attacking areas.
Before the game, Willian had appeared to be competing with Hulk for a starting berth. Like Paulinho, though, Oscar will be worried about his current form.
Fred's Knack of Coming Up Trumps Remains
Brazil striker Fred still remains a divisive figure among fans of the Selecao, with his lack of mobility and contribution to games outside of the penalty area a real point of contention for many.
However, particularly under Scolari's reign, he has a remarkable record of getting on the scoresheet.
If there was a match that summed up Fred's importance to the side, this was it. Anonymous for long periods of the game, he stepped up when required to open the scoring with a fine finish and settle Brazilian nerves.
He will need to do much more to win over his doubters, but he continues to add to his terrific strike rate in the famous yellow shirt.
Scolari Will Be Entirely Predictable but Stick to His Guns
Before the game, there had been talk of possible variations Scolari could test in the encounter ahead of the World Cup. Despite that, the 11 that took to the pitch were the same as Brazil's settled first choice for 12 months.
Scolari's Brazil have a clear game plan, a settled line-up and, with 15 wins in their last 16 games, nobody can say it has not been successful. Felipao will not be changing anytime soon.
There are complaints that the side is not "Brazilian" enough and, indeed, when Oscar is off form on occasions like this, the side can be very rigid in its buildup play. Scolari also does little to discourage physicality in their game.
But, whatever the purist's view, he will care little if they win the World Cup this summer. Aesthetics are insignificant given the prize on offer and Scolari is as stubborn as they come when he needs to be.