Brazil outclassed Serbia 2-0 in their World Cup opener last night as Richarlison’s second-half goals, including a spectacular overhead kick, propelled the five-times champions to the top of Group G.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward has been in fine form when wearing the golden yellow kit of Brazil this year and he opened the scoring with an easy tap-in before doubling the lead with his acrobatic effort.
It was his ninth goal for Brazil in seven games in 2022 as Brazil leapfrogged Switzerland, who are second in the group after they beat Cameroon 1-0. Serbia are bottom.
Tite’s decision to go with four forwards – Neymar, Vinicius Jr., Raphinha and Richarlison – in his attacking lineup paid off handsomely as the South Americans dominated the match and made Serbia work hard every time they went forward.
Vinicius used his flair and acceleration to good effect to constantly beat his man while Neymar, playing in a free role, often found pockets of space, but a well-drilled Serbian defence kept Brazil at bay in the first half.
Brazil’s best chance of the half, however, came when Neymar tried to catch goalkeeper Milinkovic-Savic off guard from a corner, whipping in an inswinger that was on target before the Torino player punched it clear.
Serbia had been sweating over the fitness of their all-time top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic but coach Dragan Stojkovic named him in the starting lineup.
Unlike Brazil’s forward line, however, which threatened from all sides, the Fulham striker found himself isolated up front with little service as skipper and playmaker Dusan Tadic struggled to influence proceedings.
The second half was one-way traffic as Brazil shifted through the gears, Richarlison and Neymar wasting gilt-edged chances inside the box and Alex Sandro and Casemiro sending long-range efforts against the woodwork.
The breakthrough came just after the hour from brilliant work by Neymar to find Vinicius, whose initial shot was saved by Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, but Richarlison was in the right place to tap in the rebound for his first World Cup goal.
Serbia had been playing conservatively up to that point and had no choice but to pour forward, which gave Brazil more space and the second goal from Richarlison brought the biggest roar of the night from the Brazilian contingent.
As Richarlison attempted to control a cross from Vinicius, the ball popped up over his head and he leapt up in the air to volley home a bicycle kick and seal the win for Brazil.
An almost perfect night for Brazil was, however, soured when Neymar came off in the 80th minute with what looked like an ankle injury after a crunching tackle from Nikola Milenkovic.
It was the same right foot Neymar has had problems with before and the Paris St Germain forward sat on the bench with his face covered while he received treatment as Brazil saw out the match.
Earlier, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo claimed yet another record as he became the first player to score in five World Cups with a penalty to help steer his side to a nervy 3-2 win over Ghana.
Ronaldo thumped home a dubiously-awarded penalty in the 65th minute after an innocuous coming together with Mohammed Salisu saw the referee point to the spot.
Ghana’s Andre Ayew equalised in the 73rd minute.
Joao Felix restored Portugal’s lead five minutes later, however, and Bruno Fernandes then showed his class with a jinking run before sliding a pass to Rafael Leao to leave Ghana stunned.
Osman Bukari’s 89th-minute headed reply set up an anxious ending for Portugal but they survived nine minutes of stoppage time to win their opening game of a World Cup for the first time in their last four appearances.