Serbia had been sweating over the fitness of their all-time top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic but coach Dragan Stojkovic named him in the starting lineup against Brazil.
Unlike Brazil's forward line, however, which threatened from all sides, the Fulham striker found himself isolated up front with little service as skipper and playmaker Dusan Tadic struggled to influence proceedings.
"In the second half we fell physically and we were no longer playing like a team. And everyone knows Brazil have excellent players and they punished us," Stojkovic said.
"I feel sorry we didn't have Mitrovic and (Filip) Kostic at 100%. They were not ready.
"The intensity was high in the second half and we gave Brazil too much space. I don't know why our players' intensity was down, it's strange."
Serbia World Cup 2022 squad
Serbia announced their 26-man World Cup squad on November 12:
Goalkeepers: Marko Dmitrovic (Sevilla), Predrag Rajkovic (Mallorca), Vanja Milinkovic-Savic (Torino)
Defenders: Stefan Mitrovic (Getafe), Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina), Strahinja Pavlovic (RB Salzburg), Milos Veljkovic (Werder Bremen), Filip Mladenovic (Legia Warsaw), Strahinja Erakovic (Red Star Belgrade), Srdjan Babic (Almeria).
Midfielders: Nemanja Gudelj (Sevilla), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Sasa Lukic (Torino), Marko Grujic (Porto), Filip Kostic (Juventus), Uros Racic (Braga), Nemanja Maksimovic (Getafe), Ivan Ilic (Hellas Verona), Andrija Zivkovic (PAOK), Darko Lazovic (Hellas Verona)
Forwards: Dusan Tadic (Ajax), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), Filip Duricic (Sampdoria), Luka Jovic (Fiorentina), Nemanja Radonji (Torino)
Who is the star name in the squad?
It has to be Mitrovic, Serbia's all-time top scorer. With 50 international goals to his name, Mitrovic has cultish support in his home country, having played for the national team since 2014.
Despite a brief period out after picking up an injury on international duty in September, Mitrovic has been in fine form for Fulham this season. He is currently the third-highest scorer in the Premier League, behind Erling Haaland and Harry Kane, having scored nine goals for Fulham.
But Serbia's fortunes received a knock when Mitrovic was rested for the final two fixtures for Fulham before the break for the World Cup, still struggling with the foot injury that ailed him earlier in the season. He was also absent from the national team's fixture against Bahrain earlier this month, so he is expected to start on the bench for the first match in Qatar.
What are Serbia's fixtures?
What is Serbia's World Cup record?
Serbia inherited Yugoslavia's World Cup record, which brings their cumulative number of World Cups attended to 12. Their highest finish came as the former socialist republic, when they finished in fourth place in 1962 after losing to hosts Chile.
They are yet to progress out of the group stages as an independent country, finishing third in their almost-identical group in Russia after losses against Switzerland and Brazil.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | Ecuador | England | France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico | Morocco | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Serbia | South Korea | Spain | Switzerland | Tunisia | Uruguay | USA | Wales
Serbia are currently a best price of 100/1 to win the World Cup.