LUSAIL, Qatar, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- Serbia manager Dragan Stojkovic blamed injuries to key players for his team's poor second half in a 2-0 defeat to Brazil in the FIFA World Cup on Thursday.
After an evenly balanced first half, Brazil forward Richarlison scored twice in 11 minutes as the South American side made a perfect start to the tournament in Group G.
"I think we were on an equal level in the first 45 minutes," Stojkovic told a post-match news conference.
"I didn't see that they were much more dominant at that stage. But in the second half we were physically at a lower level and Brazil knew how to take advantage of this because they have excellent players and they punished us."
Stojkovic said his team had been handicapped by injuries to Filip Kostic (thigh), Dusan Vlahovic (groin) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (ankle) before the World Cup began.
All three were included in Serbia's final 26-man squad but only Mitrovic played on Thursday.
"Those injuries are too much for us. We're not Brazil with 200 million people. We are a very small country," Stojkovic said. "That's a fact. I'm very sorry because they got injured just before the World Cup so they are very unlucky."
He promised his team would rebound ahead of the next match against Cameroon on Monday, which Serbia must win to have any chance of progressing to the round of 16.
"You'll see a different team in the next match than the one tonight," he said. "Brazil is the top team. There is no doubt about it. Brazil one of the favorites to win.
"It was a deserved win for Brazil. We hope to turn the page against Cameroon and hope to have healthy players," he added. ■