Top favorites Brazil started the World Cup in Qatar with a deserved 2-0 (0-0) win over Serbia. Thanks to a brace from Richarlison (62nd, 73rd), the record world champion and world number one was able to look forward to a successful start on the way to the sixth world championship title that he had longed for on Thursday. Richarlison became the match winner for the Selecao and delighted the 88,103 spectators at Lusail Stadium with an artistic side kick goal to make it 2-0.
National coach Dragan Stojkovic’s squad didn’t take anything worth counting with them despite a committed performance against team boss Tite’s ball artists. Switzerland had previously won the first game of Group G against Cameroon 1-0. Brazil, who are now 16 games unbeaten and have won eight straight matches, meet Switzerland in the second round on Monday, while the Serbs meet Cameroon shortly before. Brazil and Serbia met in the group stage at the 2018 World Cup, when the Selecao also won 2-0.
Four years later, Tite made a direct statement with his formations, the 61-year-old sent his most offensive players onto the field with Neymar, Vinicius Jr., Richarlison and Raphinha. Stojkovic, on the other hand, initially ordered 80-million man Dusan Vlahovic and the battered winger Filip Kostic to the bench. Salzburg kicker Strahinja Pavlovic started at the back left in the back three, the 21-year-old had to defuse the Brazilian ball artists on his World Cup debut.
Yellow card for Pavlovic
After seven minutes, Pavlovic introduced himself to Neymar a little too intensely and received the yellow card. The Serbs balanced the initial phase, the underdog from the Balkans pressed well, went into the duels as robustly as usual and presented the Brazilians with minor problems. It was ten minutes before Neymar got the Serbian fans’ pulses racing with a dangerous dribbling in the penalty area. Just like with a direct corner kick, which the 2.02 cm tall goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic had to punch over the crossbar (13th).
Unlike the offensively harmless Serbs, the Brazilians found more chances, but it was rarely really dangerous at first. A long-range shot by Casemiro (21′) served as a catching exercise for advanced players, and Milinkovic-Savic played well with a hole pass from Thiago Silva and was just ahead of Vinicius Jr. on the ball (28′). After 35 minutes, Raphinha made a harmless roll from a promising position, shortly afterwards Vinicius Jr. couldn’t finish (41′).
Against the defensive line of five of the Serbs, the tide eleven lacked the last precision, the groups of fans dressed in yellow in the sold-out final stadium saw hardly any spectacle in the first half. After the break, it took just 31 seconds for Raphinha to free in front of Milinkovic-Savic after a Gudelj error, but was denied by the goalie. Brazil came back with much more momentum, after an hour Alex Sandro initially found the greatest opportunity: the left-back heaved a shot from distance into the inside post.
Salvation two minutes later: After a Neymar dribble, Milinkovic-Savic was only able to fend off a Vinicius shot into the centre, where Richarlison pushed the ball over the line for a deserved lead. The Tottenham professional made the decision a little later in a spectacular way: the 25-year-old put a Vinicius cross high in front of himself and scored his 18th goal in the Brazil jersey. In the 81st minute, Casemiro curled the ball up to the crossbar for the Brazilians, who were now vastly superior.