With Germany eliminated Brazil manager Tite embraces 'huge expectations' on his side to lift a sixth World Cup
A last-16 clash with Mexico beckons in Samara on Monday after Brazil finished top of Group E following 2-0 win over Serbia
Brazil manager Tite says his players will embrace expectations as World Cup favourites after they booked their place in the knockout stages.
The five-time champions defeated Serbia 2-0 in Moscow on Wednesday night to finish top of Group E and set up a last-16 clash with Mexico in Samara on Monday.
Paulinho and Thiago Silva scored the goals at the Spartak Stadium, one in either half, while the only negative from the match was Marcelo’s withdrawal in the second minute because of injury.
However, with Germany’s shock elimination earlier in the day, Brazil are now the highest-ranked team left in the tournament according to Fifa. As such, the world's No 2 side are many people’s tip for a first world title since 2002.
Tite, though, says he is concerned only with his side getting better as the tournament in Russia progresses.
"We don't live off expectations, we live off reality," he told a press conference immediately following the Serbia win. "This is a team that is growing mentally stronger in the competition and taking the pressure with a good performance on the pitch and a balanced team.
"These are all aspects. You need options, which is important. For example, Marcelo came off two minutes into the game injured. You have to have a strong squad.”
The pressure to perform on Brazil will have only strengthened after Germany’s exit, although Spain, France and Argentina have advanced, too. Irrespective of that, Tite’s men will be confident of going all the way in Russia, given they have not been beaten in more than a year. It is a run that includes 10 victories.
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Brazil were the first team to confirm their spot at the World Cup after hosts Russia, having topped Conmebol qualification by some distance. That, coupled with their current form, reinforces their place as favourites for a sixth world crown.
“For us it is about getting stronger and growing," said Tite, who formerly managed Al Ain and Al Wahda in the UAE. "We embrace expectations, but this team has created a high expectation because it did very well during qualifying and in the friendlies.
"Then you come to the World Cup, which is a new format. We embraced the expectation and I wanted them to play like they played against Croatia and Austria [in friendly matches], but the World Cup brings out different characteristics. There are huge expectations, but we are evolving and consolidating."
Having seen Brazil at close quarters, Serbia manager Mladen Krstajic is in little doubt as to their chances of challenging for the trophy.
"It's difficult to play such an open game against a powerhouse of football like Brazil,” he said after the defeat on Wednesday. "Not just now, but before the World Cup, Brazil were among the favourites to win with Germany, Spain and Argentina.
"Football is like that, Germany are out and Brazil are certainly one of the favourites to win the tournament."
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Updated: June 28, 2018 02:37 PM