By TALES AZZONI
LUSAIL, Qatar — As Neymar limped off the pitch with an ankle injury, Richarlison qualified for the ‘Seleção’.
A spectacular overhead kick followed an easy strike from close range as Richarlison scored both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Serbia on Thursday at the World Cup.
After the match, the Tottenham striker learned the extent of Neymar’s injury.
“The most important thing for us is to have him 100 per cent for the next game,” said Richarlison, whose first goal came after a surge started by Neymar. “When I get to the hotel, I’ll go see how he is.”
Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar says Neymar sprained his right ankle. He declined to speculate on his availability to play in the team’s next game against Switzerland on Monday.
“We put ice on it while he was on the bench and then in physical therapy,” Lasmar said. “There is no test planned at the moment but we will schedule it if necessary. It will be under observation. We will know more tomorrow.”
Neymar was also injured in the 2014 World Cup. Playing at home in Brazil, his tournament ended with a back injury in the quarter-finals against Colombia when he had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. Brazil ended up losing to Germany 7-1 in the semi-finals.
Neymar was fouled nine times in the game against Serbia, four more than any other player so far at this year’s World Cup. But while dealing with Neymar, the opposing defense couldn’t stop Richarlison.
He had his back to goal when he used a throw-in to send the ball high in the air near the penalty spot, then turned and jumped off the ground before dropping the ball into the net with his right foot in the 73rd minute.
“My childhood dream has come true,” said Richarlison, playing in his first World Cup. “We knew it was going to be difficult to pass them. I’m used to playing against defensive teams like this in England. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities that were available to me and I did.
Brazil had struggled to get past the Serbian defense until Richarlison scored from close range in the 62nd. Vinícius Júnior assisted on both goals.
Neymar, seeking his first major title with Brazil, remained at 75 goals for the national team, two short of Pele’s goalscoring record.
He was tackled hard a few times and sprained his right ankle in the second half. He was crying on the bench after being substituted in the 79th minute and limping out of the stadium.
Brazil coach Tite started with an attacking-minded squad that included four forwards – Neymar, Vinícius Júnior, Raphinha and Richarlison. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paquetá played alongside Casemiro, the only defensive midfielder.
But Serbia had several returning players and were able to prevent Brazil from creating many important chances. Neymar tried to control the pace but struggled to break free. He, Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha all squandered chances early on.
Brazil’s best chance before Richarlison’s first goal had been a long-range low shot from Alex Sandro that hit the post in the 60th minute. Neymar had his best chances with a free kick in the 50th and a shot close to the penalty spot in the 55th.
Serbia had their own injury problems for the game.
“We have three key players who are injured, it’s too much for us,” said Serbian coach Dragan Stojković. “We are not Brazil with 200 million inhabitants. We are a very small country. »
Neymar, 30, has arrived at his third World Cup as Brazil’s main attraction. He helped the “Seleção” win the 2013 Confederations Cup and their first Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, but has yet to win a major title with the national team.
Brazil, bidding for their first World Cup in two decades, are unbeaten in their last 20 opening games, with 17 wins. He has finished first in his group at the last 10 World Cups.
California Daily Newspapers