Second half goals earned World Cup favourites Brazil a deserved 2-0 win over Serbia in their Group G opener in Lusail.
The European side stifled the No 1-ranked team for over an hour but the Tottenham forward’s close-range finish after Vinicius Junior’s shot was pushed into his path by goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic finally brought Brazil their hard-fought lead.
Richarlison then lit up the Lusail Stadium in Qatar with a stunning strike on the turn that arrowed beyond the Serbia goalkeeper to double the advantage. His brilliant performance more than justified his selection as Brazil’s striker ahead of Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus.
Raphinha had earlier wasted chances to make the breakthrough either side of half-time, shooting tamely on both occasions, while Alex Sandro’s swerving effort from distance struck the foot of the post as Tite’s side pushed to break down a resolute Serbia team.
Brazil were defensively strong as they extended their unbeaten run in World Cup openers to 20 games. Although there will be bigger tests as the five-time champions seek to end their 20-year wait to win this tournament, this turned out to be a commanding start.
For an hour, Serbia made it tough. By the end, it was difficult to remember that, so dominant were Brazil, so rampant were they in overwhelming their opponents. As soon as Serbia had to go in search of a goal, the gaps were there for them to exploit.
Vinicius looked so dangerous, creating all sorts of problems. Neymar had his moments, though his injury late in the game is a major concern. Such is the depth of attacking talent in this squad, however, optimism should be the prevailing emotion after this.
Jesus, Antony, Rodrygo and Gabriel Martinelli all came on as Brazil really started to enjoy themselves. Given that they looked robust at the other end of the pitch with Casemiro protecting the defence, this showed why many see them as the team to beat in Qatar.