After this magic goal by Richarlison, even the greatest ball artists of the Brazilians were amazed.
Speed dribbler Vinicius Júnior gave the Tottenham Hotspur attacker a smile and shook his head in disbelief, then the stars of the record world champions performed a short dance in front of their fans. With a 2-0 (0-0) win against Serbia, top favorite Brazil have successfully started their hunt for their sixth World Cup title.
But the joy of the victory was mixed with concern for superstar Neymar. The 30-year-old apparently injured his ankle and had to be substituted in the 79th minute and, according to his team-mates, was treated immediately in the dressing room. "I hope it's nothing serious," said defender Alex Sandro in the Lusail Stadium interview zone after the game. Neymar limped out of the arena, but coach Tite gave the all-clear: "We are confident that he can continue to play in this World Cup. He will continue this World Cup!"
In their first game of the tournament in Qatar, the Seleção also prevailed thanks to a gala performance by Richarlison. First, the attacker from Tottenham Hotspur dusted off from close range (62nd minute), then he put the ball in front of himself for a side kick (73rd) and completed a volley. After this fantastic goal, the 88,103 spectators in Lusail Stadium went wild.
Casemiro raves about Richarlison
"It's crazy, that's what you dream of as a child, scoring a goal like that in a place like that," said the double goalscorer. "We managed to turn the tables in the second half and decide the game. I was scared not to come here at all," said the long-injured attacker. "Richarlison is a brilliant striker, a great player. But he alone is not important, everyone is important," said Casemiro.
The line-up already showed what kind of offensive power the Brazilians have. Neymar, Vinicius Júnior, Raphinha, Richarlison and Lucas Paquetá - five exceptional players with a clear attacking focus were in the starting XI. But if something went forward, it wasn't initially through their individual class, but through the interface. Otherwise the compact defense of the Serbs could hardly be overcome.
Serbia offensive without accents
Two ingenious vertical passes from Casemiro and captain Thiago Silva were just about defended by the Europeans in the first round. Likewise the attempt by Neymar (13th), who wanted to flick a corner into the goal. So it initially remained with the repeated attempts to break through the Serbian bulwark. Raphinha (35') had the best chance to do so, after a fine combination was already through - but goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic failed.
Serbia limited itself to what Serbia is particularly good at: being unpleasant. The Seleção dominated the game, but they didn't get anything for free. Without the injured ex-Frankfurt player Filip Kostic, the Serbs lacked the power to go forward. Contrary to what was announced, they hardly took place offensively. But in the game against the ball, coach Dragan Stojkovic's team put everything into play. They tugged, pulled, straddled and fought: if the Brazilians were going to find a gap, they had to fit extremely well. Or hope for mistakes by the Serbs.
In the second half, not even a minute had been played when exactly that happened. Nemanja Gudelj lost the ball just before his own penalty area, which landed again at Raphinha - but again the FC Barcelona attacker could not get past the keeper. But Brazil was getting closer. A powerful long-range shot from left-back Alex Sandro (60') went to the inside of the post. But then Milinkovic-Savic blocked an attempt from Vinicius Júnior right at Richarlison's feet and the Tottenham Hotspur striker converted from close range.
Neymar little to see
On the other hand, there wasn't much to see from Neymar. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar struggled though. But sometimes he got bogged down in a dribble, sometimes he failed to accept the ball. The 30-year-old also decided too late several times for the last pass. But that didn't matter tonight. Because others took control of the Brazilians. Above all, the strong Casemiro, who directed the midfield of the Seleção. And of course Richarlison.
When Vinicius Júnior dribbled down the left flank again, he found the 25-year-old striker in the centre. He put the ball up himself, turned to the side - and then volleyed it into the net with a side pull.