The much-maligned forward scored a sensational second goal as the favourites announced their arrival in Qatar with a 2-0 win.
It’s fair to say we can end the debate about who should be Brazil’s No.9 right here – the shirt belongs to Richarlison.
The Tottenham man was the hero, scoring twice as the five-times World Cup winners began their 2022 campaign in style, beating Serbia 2-0 in Doha’s Lusail Iconic Stadium.
After watching Argentina, their great rivals, fall victim to one of the great World Cup shocks against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, Tite’s men knew they would have to be fully focused if they were to avoid a similar fate.
They were, defending ruggedly, and then ruthlessly taking advantage with two goals in the space of 11 second-half minutes, Richarlison first reacting quickest to fire home after Vinicius Junior’s shot was saved, and then adding a second with a spectacular overhead kick soon after.
A win over Switzerland on Monday, then, would see the Selecao safely into the last 16, and you’d back them to get it. Twenty years on from the last of their World Cup triumphs, Brazil look like they have a side which can go all the way once more.
Below, GOAL takes a look at the winners & losers from Thursday’s game…
He may not be prolific at club level, but there’s something about that famous yellow jersey which brings out the best in Richarlison. There has been plenty of debate as to who should be wearing the No.9 shirt for Brazil, but we won’t be hearing any complaints now. Gabriel Jesus has his fans, and many were surprised at Roberto Firmino’s omission from the World Cup squad, but here Richarlison delivered a masterclass, proving to the world why Tite has so much faith in him. His record this season for Spurs is modest – two goals in 15 appearances in all competitions, and none in 10 Premier League outings – but he’s got 19 in 39 caps for his country now, nine in his last seven, and here he demonstrated all of his penalty-box prowess. The reaction for the first goal was outstanding, quicker than the Serbian defender to convert after goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, once of Manchester United, had pushed out Vinicius Junior’s low strike. Then came the encore, Richarlison controlling Vinicus’ astute pass with one touch before adjusting his body superbly to find the corner with a spectacular, acrobatic finish. It was pretty much his last act. He was replaced by Jesus soon after, with Tite eager not to take any risks with his damaged ankle. No wonder. Brazil are going to need him if they are to experience the Joy of Six in Qatar.
We all know Brazil’s history in this tournament, and we all know how much joy they have given the world with flair players down the years. So while the pre-match focus fell largely on Neymar, what a treat it was to see the youngest member of Brazil’s front four take his first steps on the big stage, and look entirely at home while doing so. Vinicius, at 22, is already some player, already a Champions League and La Liga winner, and already one of the most exciting young forwards in world football. Here, we saw why.
He had a hand in both of Richarlison’s goals, his shot parried for the first and his cute pass expertly finished for the second. He might have had a couple himself, but skewed one effort wide and was denied by a brave stop from Milinkovic-Savic on another occasion. He’ll feel he should have done better with both opportunities. But every time he got the ball, which was not often enough if truth be told, he looked like he would make something happen. He is the kind of player to get you off your seat, and the best thing is, he’s only going to get better and better.
Amid all the attacking talent on display, here was another reminder that if you win the midfield, you usually win the game. Brazil won the midfield comfortably, and much of that was down to Casemiro, who is beginning to purr after a low-key couple of months following his move to Manchester United. The 30-year-old bossed proceedings, his ability to read the game and cover space making it almost impossible for Serbia to launch counter-attacks. His passing was crisp and accurate – one pass into Vinicius in the first half was simply beautiful – and he very nearly rounded off a fine display with a 25-yard screamer in the second half. Alas, the crossbar intervened on that occasion, but this was a world-class performance from a world-class performer.
This was not a night for Serbia’s all-time record goalscorer to look back on with any great fondness. Mitrovic has been in stunning form for club and country for more than 18 months now, but he was feeding off scraps tonight, as Brazil’s defenders dominated and Serbia showed little-to-no attacking desire. The Fulham man finished without having taken a shot at goal, and having failed to register a single touch in the opposition penalty area. Credit Thiago Silva and Marquinhos, who both cruised through the game, but Serbia will need from their main man if they are to keep their hopes alive against Cameroon next week.
Of Brazil’s four forwards who started the game, three know they will be starting against Switzerland on Monday. The other is Raphinha. It’s not that the Barcelona man was terrible, but when the big chances came his way, he fluffed his lines. He strangled an effort late in the first half and hit the goalkeeper early in the second. Then came an errant touch to squander another opening. It didn’t ultimately cost his side, but only because Vinicius and Richarlison came to the party. They delivered, and the former Leeds man didn’t. The likes of Jesus, Antony and Gabriel Martinelli will have their eye on his shirt, for sure.
A nation holds its breath. Shortly after Brazil went 2-0 up here, their star man sank to the turf, a grimace on his face. Not another World Cup injury, surely? It wasn’t quite the tears of 2014, when his tournament was ended prematurely by a back problem, but Neymar certainly didn’t look amused as he made his way off the field, to be replaced by Manchester United’s Antony. Brazil fans will hope his departure was purely precautionary – the game was won and Tite has plenty of talent on his bench – but he had ice on his suspected sprained ankle as he sat on the bench. The early signs are not good. Neymar’s tournament may already be over…