Why Brazil's laboured win over Serbia should be ominous to rivals

La Selecao struggled in their final World Cup warm-up game but still emerged with the win in Sao Paulo on Friday night, despite being booed off at half time.

Brazil's laboured 1-0 win against Serbia might have appeared to some as a team who were starting to feel the pressure of a nation who expect at the World Cup.

Their rivals might have even cracked a wry smile as they struggled to see off their European opponents in their final warm-up game before the tournament gets underway.

La Selecao kick off the competition with a mouth-watering opener against Croatia on Thursday, and after showing some rare signs of vulnerability against the Serbians, perhaps their billing as favourites alongside Spain has been misguided?

Then again, perhaps not.

It is an old adage that winning without playing well is a sign of champions. A cliche yes, but it is one for a reason, and that particular truism is only magnified in international tournaments.

Games come thick and fast, and squads are always likely to be short of 100% throughout any given tournament, so achieving victory while being some way off your optimum condition is a precious commodity that can help teams go far.

Prior to Friday night's narrow win, the Brazilians had recorded four straight victories, scoring 16 and only conceding one - against Chile back in November last year.

Sooner or later they were going to stumble somewhat, but they still managed to get the victory against the rugged Serbians on home soil, thanks to Fred's goal just before the hour mark.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's side benefit from an established order. Scolari, much like a club manager, has his pecking order that is firmly outlined, and that breeds a continuity throughout the squad.

That is no more applicable than to the central-defensive partnership of David Luiz and Thiago Silva.

Luiz divided opinion during his time at Chelsea, often being asked to play a holding midfield role after failing to break up John Terry and Gary Cahill's partnership at the back.

However, for Brazil, he is a first-choice defender, alongside his new Paris Saint-Germain teammate and captain Silva, and their tandem works well with the likes of Dani Alves and Marcelo patrolling in the full-back roles.

So far from seeing the performance as weakness, Brazil's World Cup rivals should view their triumph as an ominous warning ahead of the competition.

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