LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — With Neymar limping off the field with an ankle injury, Richarlison took charge of the Seleção.
A spectacular acrobatic kick followed an easy touch from close range as Richarlison scored both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 World Cup win over Serbia on Thursday.
After the game, the Tottenham striker learned the extent of Neymar’s injury.
“The most important thing for us is to have him at 100% for the next game,” said Richarlison, whose first goal came after a preparation started by Neymar. “When I get to the hotel I’m going to go see how he is.”
Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Neymar sprained his right ankle. He declined to speculate on whether he would be available to play in the team’s next game against Switzerland on Monday.
“We iced him while he was on the bench and then in physical therapy,” Lasmar said. “There is no test scheduled for now, but we will schedule it if necessary. He will be under observation. We will know more tomorrow.”
Neymar was also injured at the 2014 World Cup. Playing at home in Brazil, his tournament ended with a back injury in the quarterfinal against Colombia when he had to be stretchered off the field. Brazil ended up losing to Germany 7-1 in the semifinals.
Neymar was fouled nine times in the match against Serbia, four more than any other player so far at this year’s World Cup. But while guarding Neymar, the opposing defense couldn’t stop Richarlison.
He had his back to goal when he used a touch to launch the ball into the air near the penalty spot, then spun and jumped off the ground before slotting the ball into the net with his right foot in the 73rd minute.
“My childhood dream has come true,” said Richarlison, who is playing in his first World Cup. “We knew it was going to be hard to beat them. I’m used to playing defensive teams like this in England. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities I had 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, in search of his first important title with Brazil, stayed at 75 goals with the national team, two behind Pelé’s scoring record.
He was tackled hard several times and sprained his right ankle in the second half. He was crying on the bench after being substituted in minute 79 and limping when leaving the stadium.
Brazil coach Tite started with an attack-minded squad that included four strikers: Neymar, Vinícius Júnior, Raphinha and Richarlison. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paquetá played alongside Casemiro, the only defensive midfielder.
But Serbia got several players back and was able to prevent Brazil from creating many big chances. Neymar tried to control the pace but struggled to break free. He, Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha missed chances from the start.
Brazil’s best chance before Richarlison’s opening goal had been a low, long shot from Alex Sandro that struck the post on 60 minutes. Neymar had his best chances with a free-kick in the 50th minute and a shot near the penalty spot in the 55th minute.
Serbia had their own injury problems for the match.
“We have three key players who are injured, it’s too much for us,” Serbia coach Dragan Stojković said. “We are not Brazil with 200 million people. We are a very small country.”
Neymar, 30, reached 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 he has yet to win a major title with the national team.
Brazil, trying to win its first World Cup in two decades, is unbeaten in its last 20 opening matches, with 17 wins. They have finished top of their group in the last 10 World Cups.
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