LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — When Neymar limped off the field with an ankle injury, Richarlison stepped into the “Seleção.”
A spectacular acrobatic kick followed an easy tap-in 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 forward 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 build-up started by Neymar. “When I get to the hotel, I’ll go see how he’s doing.
Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Neymar sprained his right ankle. He declined to speculate on whether he would be available for the team’s next game against Switzerland on Monday.
“We put ice on him while he was on the bench and then in physical therapy,” Lasmar said. “There is no test scheduled yet, but we will schedule one if necessary. He will be under observation. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
Neymar was also injured at the 2014 World Cup. His tournament, played at home in Brazil, ended in the quarter-finals against Colombia with a back injury when he had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. Brazil eventually lost to Germany 7–1 in the semi-finals.
Neymar was fouled nine times in the match against Serbia, four times more than any other player so far at this year’s World Cup. But while looking after Neymar, the opposition defense was unable to stop Richarlison.
He had his back to goal when he one-touched the ball into the air near the penalty spot before turning and leaping off the ground before smashing 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 difficult to get past them. I am used to playing against such defensive teams in England. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities that I had and that 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, seeking his first major title with Brazil, remains on 75 goals for the national team, two just shy of Pelé’s goalscoring record.
He was severely reprimanded several times and sprained his right ankle in the second half. After being substituted in the 79th, he cried on the bench and limped out of the stadium.
Brazilian coach Tite started with an attack-oriented team that included four forwards — Neymar, Vinícius Júnior, Raphinha and Richarlison. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paquetá played alongside Casemiro, the lone defensive midfielder.
However, Serbia had several players back and were able to prevent Brazil from creating many significant opportunities. Neymar tried to control the tempo but struggled to break free. He, Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha all missed chances early on.
Brazil’s best chance before Richarlison’s opener was Alex Sandro’s long-range shot that hit the post in the 60th minute. Neymar had the best opportunities with a free kick in the 50th minute and a shot from near the penalty area 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 inhabitants. We are a very small country.”
Thirty-year-old Neymar arrived at his third World Cup as Brazil’s main attraction. He helped the “Seleção” win the 2013 Confederations Cup and its first Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, but has yet to win a major title with the national team.
Brazil, who are looking to win their first World Cup in two decades, are unbeaten in their last 20 opening matches with 17 wins. It has finished first in its group in the last 10 World Cups.
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