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Richarlison may have to justify his status as Brazil’s best player to outsiders, but he’s used his debut on the World Cup stage to prove exactly why coach Tite is unwavering in his admiration.
The Tottenham forward faces massive competition for his place in the Qatar national team from the likes of Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus and Real Madrid’s Rodrygo, while Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino hasn’t even made the trip.
In a team full of attacking riches, Tite made Richarlison his first choice striker to complement the gifts of Neymar and Vinicius Jr, and was the spearhead as the tournament favorites opened with a thrilling 2-0 victory over Serbia at Lusail Stadium.
Richarlison ended Brazil’s frustration in the face of a swarming Serbian defensive line when he pounced on goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, who parried Vinicius Jr.’s shot on the hour mark.
Then came the real moment of magic, a piece of skill that had the finest traditions of Brazilian football running through it.
Richarlison initially failed to control Vinicius’ cross but was promptly re-equipped, taking to the air and displaying exemplary technique and athleticism to return an unstoppable right-footed shot.
Richarlison’s second goal was to score the ninth goal in his last seven matches with Brazil, which is further evidence of why Tite kept him in this regard and made him the first player in his country to score two goals in his World Cup debut since Neymar in 2014.
In some ways he is a workhorse surrounded by more brilliant attacking talent, but Richarlison is a complete striker when at the top of his form, offering a tireless work rate as well as high levels of skill.
Richarlison had a stuttering start to the start of his Tottenham career following his £60m summer move from Everton, with injuries hampering his progress, but this was a performance that showed what an asset he is to Brazil and will be for his team at the club. future.
Former England striker Alan Shearer told BBC Sport: “He’s a guy in good shape in that yellow shirt. He hasn’t scored yet in the Premier League for Tottenham but for Brazil he’s on fire.
“Richallison positioning himself to pick up those little goals scattered around, the ones the keeper would use in and around the six-yard box, gives me as much satisfaction as the amazing second goal he scored.
“He’s in the right position. He gets his shot wide. Watch his movement. He’s the first to react like all good strikers. It looks very simple but it’s not. You have to get in there and finish it. It’s very nice. Very good attacking midfield play.”
Richarlison’s match-winning display also added to the weight of evidence pointing to the sheer strength and overall quality of the Brazilian national team, making them favorites to lift the World Cup in the same stadium.
Busy but generally calm, Neymar appeared to be injured as well, while Vinicius was dazzling. They couldn’t achieve their own breakthrough, but they helped Richarlison get the job done to dampen Serbia’s hopes.
Brazil could have added more in the closing stages as Tite made the kind of changes that will make their opponents lap jealous of their powerhouses in depth, introducing Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli, Manchester United duo Anthony and Fred, and Real Madrid’s Rodrigo.
Manchester United’s Casemiro showed all his ample experience, hitting the woodwork alongside Alex Sandro, while behind them Chelsea veteran Thiago Silva and Liverpool’s standout goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who had no saves.
Brazil’s army of fans always await the World Cup finals, and their first match in any tournament carries a touch of theatre. Their yellow shirts flooded Lusail Stadium before kick-off and were scattered everywhere in a crowd of over 88,000.
They will hope, with good reason, to return to that spot in the final.
If expectations weigh heavily on Brazil’s players, it will not be seen amid remarkably relaxed scenes as they arrive before kick-off.
When the team bus pulled up in the tunnel, the band members joined together in a dance before descending. When Neymar entered the dressing room he was joined by his samba teammate Rafinha.
Full of World Cup nerves? not exactly.
There was a glorious outpouring of Brazilian joy to each of Richarlison’s goals, and members of the squad and squad flocked towards the corner flag to shower the scorer. It was a real show of unity and celebration.
When Neymar entered the pitch he was wearing a glowing pair of shimmering gold headphones. His time will come here in Qatar – but on this night it was Richarlison who emerged as Brazil’s golden boy.
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