LUSAIL, Qatar – Two goals from Richarlison propelled Brazil 2-0 past a stubborn Serbia SelecaGroup G opening game at the 2022 World Cup.
It took a while for Brazil coach Tite’s men to get going and on a night when Neymar was beaten it was left to Vinicius Jr and Richarlison to lead the side to victory.
Here’s ESPN’s Gabriele Marcotti with a reaction and analysis from Qatar.
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1. Brazil comes alive after a poor first half
Brazil took a while to get going against a well-organized Serbia, as evidenced by the first half, which recorded the tournament’s lowest xG total to date. And while credit must be given to the opposition, it was also a first half in which Brazil’s creative channels were silenced.
Raphinha flared up early and then disappeared, Neymar couldn’t find a place and rowed with Luka Milenkovic and Nemanja Gudelj, Lucas Paqueta couldn’t find his fit and Richarlison was set up well by the back three.
But football is also a game of individual battles. Perhaps the most consistent attacking threat, Vinicius brought up the shot from long-range that Vanja Milinkovic-Savic threw in Richarlison’s path in the opener. And of course the second goal was all Richardison’s genius and improvisation. You don’t plan that, and Brazil coach Tite knows it.
It was enough against Serbia and of course they hit the wood twice and could have scored more goals. But Brazil need to step up their game compared to what we saw in the first half.
It’s nice to have a source of individual talent to turn to, but it’s even nicer to impose your collective will on your opponent.
2. Serbia’s clever game plan is almost working
Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic’s game plan worked for halftime. He’s blocked the middle of the park, he’s gotten Serbia to be physical and close without defending too deep, and he’s limited Brazil’s offensive threat to single thrusts that are usually quickly wiped out.
The problem was that his three most advanced players, Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, clearly lacked pace. That meant it would always be difficult to counterattack – Serbia could at best hope to win and hold the ball in transition play to move forward as a team.
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But on a night when none of the three worked, it became too easy for Brazil to defend – and with hindsight one wonders if a fit, mobile Dusan Vlahovic might have been a better option.
The big man’s only appearance in the past month was a 45-minute stint in a friendly against Bahrain last week. Perhaps Stojjkovic will ease his start into the tournament knowing he can make the difference against teams like Switzerland and Cameroon.
3. The great support of Brazil characterizes Qatar
Brazil is perhaps the most popular national team in this part of the world. The Lusail’s undulating bowl was a sea of yellow and the subway ride from central Doha was awash with green and gold.
Many were Brazilians who made the trip, but many were simply locals who embraced the Selecao, whether because of Neymar’s popularity, or the five World Cups they’ve won, or being the favorite once again.
Of course, Brazil being the favorites of the neutrals is nothing new. No country is as closely associated with the World Cup as the green-and-gold. However, it seems, perhaps due to some tensions between the European federations and the Qatari organizers, that Brazil are more popular as a team than any other.
Anyway, it seems that Brazil will enjoy home field advantage during this World Cup. Probably more so than hosts Qatar judging by the way the Al Bayt Stadium emptied when they were two goals down in the opener.
Brazil: Alisson (6), Danilo (7), Marquinjhos (7), Thiago Silva (7), Alex Sandro (8), Casemiro (7), Lucas Paqueta (5), Raphinha (5), Neymar (6), Vinicius ( 8), Richarlison (7).
Subtitle: Fred 6, Martinelli 6, Antony 6, Rodrygo 6, Gabriel Jesus 6
Serbia: V. Miilinkovic-Savic 7, Milenkovic 6, Velkjovic 6, Pavlovic 7, Zivkovic 5, S. Milinkovic-Savic 5, Gudelj 7, Lukic 7, Mladenovic 7, Tadic 5, Mitrovic 5
Subtitle: Radonjic 6, Ilic 6, Lazovic 6, Vlahovic 6, Maksimovic 6
Best and worst performers
BEST: Vinicius, Brazil
Yes, Richarlison scored two goals, one of which was a highlight. But for consistency throughout the game, I’m picking Vinicius, whose accelerations on the wing were a constant destabilizing force even in the first half when most of Brazil’s attacks died down.
WORST: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Serbia
He was supposed to keep the ball up and allow Serbia to push forward, but Marquinhos and Thiago Silva kept him at bay, neutralizing both his physicality and ability to find space. Maybe he’s not fit but if that’s going to be his level then it makes more sense to start Vlahovic who after all offers a threat running behind defenders.
Highlights and notable moments
The first half was a bit of a snooze feast: not only was it goalless, it had the lowest xG or expected goals of any previous World Cup first half, meaning good scoring chances were few and far between.
But Brazil came alive in the second half, finding a dangerous moment in the first minute after the break and then a Richarlison goal in the 62nd minute.
The one goal everyone will be talking about, however, is Richarlison’s second goal: a flying, acrobatic side kick volleyball. Richarlison slammed the ball up to him – perhaps with a wrong, bad first touch – and he finished it off beautifully.
ON. TO REPEAT.
I can’t stop watching this AWESOME goal from Richarlison 😱🤯 pic.twitter.com/xYmwln4Ajk
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 24, 2022
After the game: What the players and coaches said
Please come back soon…
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
The first half ended with Brazil scoring an xG or expected goals of 0.21 while Serbia scored just 0.04. That was the lowest xG ever in a first half at this World Cup.
Richarlison is the fourth player after Careca (1990), Neymar (2014) and Philippe Coutinho (2018) to score the first two goals in a single World Cup for Brazil.
Neymar took the brunt of nine of the 12 fouls suffered by the Brazilian side. Neymar’s nine fouls suffered were as many as all other players from both teams combined – Serbia suffered six in total.
Brazil: Group G resumes on Monday, November 28 when Brazil meets Switzerland at 11am ET. Then Brazil meets Cameroon on Friday, December 2nd at 2pm ET.
Serbia: Group G resumes on Monday, November 28 when Serbia meets Cameroon at 5pm ET. Then Serbia meets Switzerland on Friday, December 2nd at 14:00 ET.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/4812894/world-cup-richarlison-heroics-save-brazil-vs-tough-serbia Richarlison heroics save Brazil vs. tough Serbia