Richarlison lit up the World Cup with a moment of Brazilian magic as the tournament favourites overcame Serbia’s stubborn resistance to open their campaign with an impressive 2-0 victory.
Brazil had to play a patient game to break down an organised Serbia rearguard but forced the breakthrough after 62 minutes when Tottenham striker Richarlison turned home a close-range finish after Vanja Milinkovic-Savic saved Vinicius Junior’s effort.
Richarlison’s crowning moment came 11 minutes later, at first mis-controlling a pass from Vinicius but readjusting brilliantly to take the aerial route and fire home an acrobatic right-foot finish.
It was no more than Brazil – backed by the massed ranks of their yellow-clad fans – deserved as they dominated throughout, with Alex Sandro and Casemiro hitting the woodwork and Milinkovic-Savic also saving superbly from Fred.
Brazil’s performance made ominous viewing for their rivals, as did the sight of Gabriel Jesus, Antony and Gabriel Martinelli coming off the bench in a powerful show of squad strength, although there was the worrying sight of Neymar going off after taking a knock.
Brazil arrived in Qatar accompanied by the usual huge weight of expectation that always accompanies the five-time world champions, but if it was a burden they carried it lightly here.
From the scenes of players dancing on the team bus and on their way into the stadium to their performance, Brazil looked right at home and justified the belief of many that they will be the eventual winners.
Serbia’s game plan was to frustrate and steal something on the counter, as demonstrated by their players receiving high fives from coaching staff as they went off at half-time with the game goalless.
The ploy was ultimately unsuccessful but they can still take plenty from their performance.
Serbia are still in with a chance of qualifying as it is hard to see anyone coping with Brazil, and they demonstrated how difficult they will be to break down in their remaining games against Switzerland and Cameroon.