The pigeon has landed at the World Cup. In theory, it is not the best place for him among the hunting falcons of the Arabian peninsula. Then again, Richarlison has never been too concerned about perfection.
If he were, he would never embrace his nickname ‘Pombo’, Portuguese for the much-maligned bird. He is happy to poke fun at his own beaky features and peculiar gait, and Brazil are learning to love him for that.
Just as they do at Tottenham. Where they consider Richarlison genuine, determined and selfless. He works for his team. And his coaches and teammates have always adored him. Popular opinion in Brazil called for Rodrygo, Antony or Gabriel Jesus to start up front rather than him.
On this evidence, Brazil will take some beating at the World Cup after finding their rhythm in the second half
Richarlison was the star of the show for Brazil and his second-half double earned the points for his side
Richarlison created his own bicycle kick in a moment of pure brilliance to the delight of the Selecao fans
The second was glorious and the Tottenham man’s opener simply predatory has he knocked home from close range
The injury to Neymar clouded what was otherwise a perfect night for the World Cup favourites in Lusail Iconic Stadium
They craved extra flair but those opinions are about to change because his two goals in 11 minutes against Serbia in the Lusail Stadium conjured a winning start for Brazil, despite an injury scare for Neymar who left the pitch in tears after twisting an ankle.
Richarlison’s first was a true poacher’s finish when Vinicius Junior’s fierce low shot was pushed up and out by the goalkeeper. Richarlison pounced. His striker’s instinct had him lurking in the right place, sniffing.
His athleticism enabled him to adjust, forcing the ball into the net from an awkward height. His second. Well, his second was something else. An acrobatic scissor-kick volley that will go down as a World Cup classic of the genre.
Vinicius rapped a cross firmly towards him. Not easy to bring under control, Richarlison’s touch sent it spinning into the air and over his shoulder. As it did, he assessed the trajectory, swivelled, leapt and twisted in the air and unleashed a screaming volley into the net with his right foot.
Richarlison was given the nod ahead of Gabriel Jesus and fully justified the selection up front
Brazil are now level on points with Switzerland in Group G and play them in their next game on Monday
Neymar suffered what appeared to be an ankle injury and the swelling was visible when he took his sock off
It was a frustrating night for the Brazil talisman, who failed to make a real impact on the game and was outshone
Alisson 6; Danilo 6, Marquinhos 7, Silva 6.5, Sandro 7; Paqueta 6.5 (Fred 6), Casemiro 8; Raphinha 6, Neymar 7, Vinicius 7.5 (Rodrygo, 6.5); Richarlison 8.5 (Jesus).
Goals: Richarlison 62 , 73
Manager: Tite 7
V.Milinkovic-Savic 7; Milenkovic 6, Veljkovic 6.5, Pavlovic 6; Zivkovic 5 (Radonjic 57, 5), Gudelj 6 (Ilic 57, 5), Lukic 6 (), S.Milinkovic-Savic 5, Mladenovic 5.5; Tadic 5 (Vlahovic), Mitrovic 5.
Bookings: Pavlovic, Gudelj, Lukic,
Manager: Dragan Stojkovic 5
Ref: Alireza Faghani (Iran) 6
Two goals in 11 minutes. Nine in his last seven appearances for Brazil. He may not have the silky skills and creative flair of Neymar nor the electric pace of Vinicius but the Spurs forward has become integral to this team.
For more than an hour, they toiled to break down Serbia. Raphinha squandered two decent chances and Alex Sandro thumped an effort from range against a post.
Dragan Stojkovic’s team were obdurate, industrious and well organised with the steely glint of a team with a plan. One prepared to shelve their natural attacking instincts and deploy the discipline required to frustrate the life out of their gifted opponents.
For 45 minutes it worked. They came out with a back three and Sasa Lukic detail to closely patrol Neymar. Brazil’s playmaker drifted in his free role around centre forward Richarlison, flanked by Vinicius and Raphinha.
Neymar suffered a bruising night. He was softened up with a shuddering early tackle, and Lukic literally dragged the shirt from his back at one point in the first half as they tussled for the ball.
Serbia though were committed. They protected their ‘keeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic whose anticipation, courage and a burst of pace from his line prevented Vinicius sprinting onto a sublime pass from Thiago Silva.
This was Brazil’s most effective ploy. Zip a few passes about, drag the defensive unit out of shape and slide the lightning quick Real Madrid winder in behind the right wing-back Andrija Zivkovic.
Serbia contained it, scrambling back, shuffling across, and closing space. While, at the other end, Alisson’s involvement was limited to fielding crosses. The Serbs offered very little adventure beyond seeking to spring out on the turnover of possession. Seldom with any threat.
Aleksandar Mitrovic niggled by an ankle injury this season, was fit enough to start up front but service was severely limited. The Fulham talisman has 12 in 13 for club and country this season. He is Serbia’s record scorer with 50 goals but never looked likely to extend the record.
Brazil returned for the second half more purpose. Having missed the best chance of the first half, Raphinha won himself another opportunity. Pouncing on a rare slip by Nemanja Gudelj and was clean through on goal.
Once again, the former Leeds man could did not have the precision to finish. Vanja made a block.
Serbia dealt with Neymar physically and eventually the No 10 had to make way in the second half
Vinicius Jr was a menace on the left with his pace and trickery causing all sorts of problems for Serbia
Aleksandr Mitrovic (right) was given the nod to start but struggled for service and his chances were limited
Serbia move on to their second game against Cameroon and will hope to offer more in attack against them
They got Neymar into the game. He dropped deep and embarked on a jinking run, gathering speed until cynically cut down outside the penalty area by Gudelj. Neymar took the free-kick himself. It clipped the wall and flashed over.
Alex Sandro beat Vanya but rattled the woodwork. The breakthrough was coming. Neymar miskicked and his volley skidded wide but he opened up Serbia for the first goal with a run into the penalty area.
Vinicius took it from him and forced a save and there was Richarlison. What a moment for the Tottenham player who feared his World Cup dream was over when he injured a calf muscle last month.
Instead he is Brazil’s opening game hero. His second will live long in the memory and he received a standing ovation. There might have been more as Serbia finally swept forward. Casemiro hit the bar but two was enough for a flying start. Can anyone catch the pigeon?
The Brazilians were frustrated in the first half but came to the party in the second to break the Serbian resolve
There is clearly a real collective harmony in the group and a reason why they are favourites to win the trophy
Richarlison’s finish was the spectacular moment that the game will be remembered for and he was man of the match
Follow Sportsmail’s live blog for the World Cup Group G clash between Brazil and Serbia.
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