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Richarlison’s superb double sinks Serbia to power up Brazil | World Cup 2022

Yes, Brazil: that’s pretty much how we remembered you. It’s a new generation of Brazilian players, a new era and a new challenge for the World Cup. And yet, by the same token, it was a classic Brazilian tournament performance: the kind that feels like it’s being staged for our benefit. On a quiet night in the giant golden arch of Lusail Stadium, the tournament favorites played the game you’ve come to expect from tournament favourites: solid, expansive and embellished with the kind of effortless sheen that makes people frown a little. ‘other countries.

The match had three distinct periods. In the first half, Brazil started quite softly, perhaps even uncertainly, attacking Serbia with pace but not much confidence. As the second half wore on, they began to warm up to the task, cathartically breaking the deadlock with a goal from Richarlison. In the last half hour they just let loose: stormy skill, relentless waves of attacks and an early goal from tournament contender Richarlison, who scored his second with an outrageous bicycle kick .

It was Vinícius Junior and Neymar who combined for Richarlison’s goals, and this trio – with Raphinha also out on the right – looks to early evidence as Qatar’s most balanced and lethal attack: trickery pure and pure speed, with a clean cut. tool in front. Casemiro was a masterful string puller at the base of midfield. Alex Sandro had a superb game at left-back, considered one of Brazil’s problems. Serbia was pretty good for 45 minutes. In the end, however, they looked not only beaten but broken, having been forced to chase beams of light.

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Richarlison's superb double sinks Serbia to power up Brazil | World Cup 2022

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And it’s no longer as if Brazil were automatically the favorites to win these kinds of matches. Their World Cup record against European sides since 2010 is now as follows: nine games played, three wins, two draws, four losses. Every tournament they seem to sweat a little more, fight a little harder, stand out a little less. But that, perhaps, was a reminder that Brazil are at their best when they play with that little hint of imperial arrogance, the fearlessness and verve that shoots teams in the chest and asks: well, how many? stars on your badge?

And of course they can also play with a little devil. Serbia had the kind of game they wanted: aggressive, physical, spicy and often spicy. Neymar received his usual kick for being Neymar. But no team with Casemiro, Thiago Silva, Richarlison and Raphinha in their ranks will ever shy away from a battle. At one point Raphinha tackled Filip Mladenovic and then just looked at him, just to make sure he knew he had been tackled. Another time, Sasa Lukic threw a (perfectly legal) tackle that sent Alex Sandro flying and rolling 10 yards.

Brazilian players celebrate with their fans after the final whistle.
Brazilian players celebrate with their fans after the final whistle. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Meanwhile, Andrija Zivkovic stuck to Vinícius like an environmental activist sticking to a London crossroads. Vinícius went a step further. Zivkovic followed. Vinícius drifted to the touchline. Zivkovic followed. Vinícius followed inside. Zivkovic followed. Later that night, as an exhausted Vinícius climbed into bed at the Westin Doha hotel, he would find Zivkovic already there waiting for him, a despicable smile crumpling across his face as he rolled over and carried the most of the quilt with him.

Few chances, but some promising moments for Brazil. And like the stubborn pistachio at the bottom of the bag, Brazil probed and scraped and prized and tugged, and finally liberated Serbia. There had been chances for Neymar and Alex Sandro before eventually Neymar sent the ball into the penalty area with a delicious shoulder drop. Vinícius took over and curled a shot over Vanja Milinkovic-Savic; Richarlison cleaned up the rebound.

And for the rest of the match, Brazil were simply inexorable. Casemiro shook the bar. Substitute Rodrygo cut the left and had a magnificent time. Antony and Gabriel Martinelli also came. But the game had already known its crowning glory. With 11 minutes remaining, Vinícius nonchalantly teased a cross with the outside of the boot. Richarlison tossed the ball in the air with his toe, soared towards the sky, his blond head spinning on its axis like a play of light, before sinking the ball with a pure capoeira blow: a straight goal out of a soft drink commercial, filmed in one clean take.

If you were critical, maybe Brazil could have done a bit more of their dominance later on. But really you would be bitching for the fun of it. More difficult tests await us. This Brazil can play Joga Feio as good as joga skipjack. But it was like watching your favorite band play all their old hits. Welcome, guys.

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