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 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 lay down World Cup marker
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.
Brazil were happy to keep probing in the face of outstanding Serbian defence but once they went through the gears after half-time they were irresistible.
Serbia, who did not have a shot on target, were already creaking when Richarlison pounced for the first goal and the game was over once he scored that truly exhilarating second.
Brazil could have added more as they tore holes in Serbia’s tiring defence as the game wore on but this was a hugely satisfactory night for coach Tite in so many ways.
Neymar worked hard but was quiet, although he was involved in the build-up to Richarlson’s first, but Vinicius showed how impressive he can be while Casemiro ruled midfield with his usual authority.
This was not an easy game for Brazil against the side ranked 21st in the world but ultimately they were comfortable and deserved winners.
Serbia finally broken down
Serbia’s gameplan 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.
That said, they could not get any worthwhile service to main striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, while Dusan Tadic was unable to exert any influence.
Serbia are well-drilled and uncompromising – if they can add in a degree of service to Mitrovic then they have the potential to advance.