LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — While Neymar limped off the field with an ankle injury, Richarlison came through for the ‘Seleção’.
A spectacular acrobatic kick followed an easy tap from close range as Richarlison scored both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 World Cup victory over Serbia on Thursday.
After the game, the Tottenham striker learned about the extent of Neymar’s injury.
“The most important thing for us is that he is 100% for the next game,” said Richarlison, whose first goal came after a Neymar build-up. “When I get to the hotel, I’ll check on him.”
Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Neymar sprained his right ankle. He declined to speculate whether he would be available to play in the team’s next game against Switzerland on Monday.
“We put ice on it while he was on the couch and then in physical therapy,” Lasmar said. “No test is planned for now, but we will plan it if necessary. He will be observed. Tomorrow we will know more.”
Neymar was also injured in the 2014 World Cup. Playing at home in Brazil, his tournament ended with a back injury in the quarter-final against Colombia when he had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. Brazil eventually lost 7–1 to Germany in the semi-finals.
Neymar was fouled nine times against Serbia, four more than any other player in this year’s World Cup. But while looking after Neymar, the opposing defense could not stop Richarlison.
He was standing with his back to goal when he got the ball airborne near the penalty spot with one touch, turned and jumped off the ground before hammering the ball into the net with his right foot in the 73rd minute.
“My childhood dream has come true,” said Richarlison, who is participating in his first World Cup. “We knew it would be difficult to pass them. I’m used to playing against such defensive teams in England. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities I had and I did.”
Brazil 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 major title with Brazil, remained on 75 goals for the national team, two short of Pelé’s scoring 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 and limping as he left the stadium.
Brazilian coach Tite started with an attack-oriented squad with four attackers: Neymar, Vinícius Júnior, Raphinha and Richarlison. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paquetá played alongside Casemiro, the lone defensive midfielder.
But Serbia had several players back and managed to stop Brazil from creating many big chances. Neymar tried to control the pace but struggled to break free. He, Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha missed opportunities early on.
Brazil’s best chance before Richarlison’s opening goal was a low long shot from Alex Sandro that hit the post in the 60th. Neymar got his best chances with a free kick in the 50th and a shot from close to the penalty spot in the 55th.
Serbia had its own injury problems before the game.
“We have three key players who are injured – it’s too much for us,” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojković. “We are not Brazil with 200 million people. We are a very small country.”
Neymar, 30, came to his third World Cup as Brazil’s main attraction. He helped the “Seleção” win the 2013 Confederations Cup and the first Olympic gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016, but he has yet to win a major title with the national team.
Brazil, seeking to win its first World Cup in two decades, is undefeated in its last 20 opening games, with 17 wins. It has finished first in its group in the last 10 World Cups.
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