FIFA World Cuphost nation: Qatar Events: 20 Nov-18 Nov December Cover: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Daily TV Listings – Full Coverage Details
Richarlison may have to justify his place as Brazil’s No9 to underdogs, but he used his debut on the World Cup stage to demonstrate exactly why coach Tite is unwavering in his admiration.
Tottenham’s striker faces fierce competition from the likes of Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus and Real Madrid’s Rodrygo for his place in Qatar, while Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino hasn’t even arrived.
In a squad teeming with attacking riches, Tite has made Richarlison his first-choice striker to complement the gifts of Neymar and Vinicius Junior and spearheaded as the tournament favorites opened with an impressive 2-0 win over Serbia at the Lusail Stadium.
Richarlison ended Brazil’s frustration at Serbia’s massive defense when he struck just after the hour after goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic had blocked Vinicius Junior’s shot.
Then came a real moment of magic, a feat that infused the best traditions of Brazilian football.
Richarlison initially failed to control Vinicius’ cross but immediately adjusted again, lifting off and showing perfect technique and athleticism to blast home an unstoppable right-footed volley.
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Richarlison’s second goal made it nine in his last seven Brazil games, further showing why he is so valued by Tite and making him his country’s first player to score twice in his World Cup debut since Neymar in 2014 .
He’s somewhat a workhorse surrounded by more flamboyant attacking talent, but Richarlison is the complete forward when he’s at his game’s peak, offering tireless workrate as well as a high level of skill.
Richarlison had a stop-start opener to his Spurs career following his £60m summer move from Everton, with injuries blocking his progress, but it was a performance that showed what an asset he is to Brazil and for his club team will be future.
Former England striker Alan Shearer told BBC Sport: “He’s a man in form in that yellow shirt. He has yet to score for Spurs in the Premier League, but he’s fired up for Brazil.
“Positioning Richarlison to score those shoddy little goals, where the keeper will knock them in and around the six-yard box, gives me as much satisfaction as the incredible second goal he scored.
“He’s in the right position. He gets his shot away. Watch his movement. He reacts first, like all good strikers. It looks very easy, but it’s not. You have to get in there and then finish it. It is a very, very good centre-forward game.”
Richarlison’s victorious performance also added to the evidence suggesting that the sheer strength and all-around quality of the Brazilian side put them among the favorites to win the World Cup at the same stadium.
Neymar was busy but calm overall and also appeared to be picking up an injury while Vinicius dazzled. They failed to make any breakthroughs of their own but helped Richarlison do the job of snuffing out Serbia’s hopes.
Brazil could have added even more in the closing stages as Tite made the kind of changes that have his rivals wince with envy at their strength at depth, bringing in Arsenal’s Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli, Manchester United’s Antony and Fred pair and Real Madrid’s Rodrygo.
Manchester United’s Casemiro showed all his experience, hitting the woodwork alongside Alex Sandro, while behind them are Chelsea veteran Thiago Silva and Liverpool’s standout goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who failed to make a save.
Brazil’s army of fans is always excited at World Cups, and their first game at each tournament carries an air of sports theatre. Their yellow shirts flooded Lusail Stadium before kick-off and were scattered throughout the crowd of more than 88,000.
They’re hoping to return to this venue for the finals, and with good reason.
If the Brazilian players were weighed down with anticipation, it didn’t show in the remarkably relaxed scenes as they arrived before kick-off.
When the team bus stopped in the tunnel, the members of the team danced together before getting off. As Neymar strolled into the dressing room, he was joined for a samba by teammate Raphinha.
Plagued by World Cup nerves? Not exactly.
And with every goal from Richarlison, Brazilian joy erupted. Members of the team and squad flocked to the corner flag to overwhelm the scorer. It was a real show of unity and celebration.
Neymar entered the stadium wearing a garish pair of shimmering golden headphones. His time will come here in Qatar – but tonight it was Richarlison who stood out as Brazil’s golden boy.
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