IMAGE: Brazil’s Neymar battles for possession with Serbia’s Nemanja Gudelj and Sasa Lukic during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group G match. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Brazil outclassed Serbia 2-0 in their World Cup opener on Thursday as Richarlison’s second-half goals, including a spectacular overhead kick, propelled the five-times champions to the top of Group G.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward has been in fine form when wearing the golden yellow kit of Brazil this year and he opened the scoring with an easy tap-in before doubling the lead with his acrobatic effort.
Tite’s decision to go with four forwards – Neymar, Vinicius Jr., Raphinha and Richarlison – in his attacking lineup paid off handsomely as the South Americans dominated the match and made Serbia work hard every time they went forward.
IMAGE: Serbia’s Strahinja Pavlovic controls the ball under pressure from Raphinha. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Vinicius used his acceleration to good effect to constantly beat his man while Neymar, playing in a free role, often found pockets of space, but a well-drilled Serbian defence kept Brazil at bay in the first half.
Serbia had been sweating over the fitness of their all-time top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic but coach Dragan Stojkovic named him in the starting lineup.
Unlike Brazil’s forward line, however, which threatened from all sides, the Fulham striker found himself isolated up front with little service.
IMAGE: Brazil’s Vinicius Junior is fouled by Serbia’s Nikola Milenkovic. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
The second half was one-way traffic as Brazil shifted through the gears, Richarlison and Neymar wasting gilt-edged chances inside the box and Alex Sandro and Casemiro sending long-range efforts against the woodwork.
The breakthrough came just after the hour from brilliant work by Neymar to find Vinicius, whose initial shot was saved by Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, but Richarlison was in the right place to tap in the rebound for his first World Cup goal.
Serbia had been playing conservatively up to that point and had no choice but to pour forward, which gave Brazil more space and the second goal from Richarlison brought the biggest roar of the night from the Brazilian contingent.
IMAGE: Brazil’s Richarlison scores the team’s second goal. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
As Richarlison attempted to control a cross from Vinicius, the ball popped up over his head and he leapt up in the air to volley home a bicycle kick and seal the win for Brazil.
Switzerland are second in the group after they beat Cameroon 1-0 and Serbia are bottom.
IMAGE: Brazil’s Alisson Becker makes a save against Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images