LUCILLE, Qatar (AP) — With Neymar off the field with an ankle injury, Richarlison came in for a “silicao.”
A stunning acrobatic kick came after he tapped in easily from close range as Richarlison scored both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 victory over Serbia on Thursday at the World Cup.
After the match, the Tottenham striker learned of the extent of Neymar’s injury.
“The most important thing for us is to make it 100% in the next game,” said Richarlison, whose first goal came after a reinforcement started by Neymar. “When I get to the hotel, I’ll go see how he’s doing.”
The Brazilian team doctor, Rodrigo Lasmar, said that Neymar had sprained his right ankle. He declined to speculate on whether he would be fit to play in the team’s next match against Switzerland on Monday.
“We iced him while he was on the bench and then in physical therapy,” Lasmar said. “There is no scheduled testing at the moment but we will schedule it if necessary. It will be under observation. We will know more tomorrow.”
Neymar was also injured at the 2014 World Cup. He played at home in Brazil, and his tournament ended with a back injury in the quarter-finals against Colombia when he had to be carried 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 match against Serbia, four more than any other player so far in this year’s World Cup. But while taking care of Neymar, the opponent’s defense could not stop Richarlison.
He got his back on goal when he used a single touch to get the ball up in the air near the penalty spot, then spun around and jumped 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 making his World Cup debut. “We knew it was going to be difficult to get past them. I’m used to playing against defensive teams like that in England. I wanted to take the chances that I had and that I had.”
Brazil struggled to get past the Serbian defense until Richarlison scored from close range in the 62nd minute. Vinicius Junior set up both goals.
Neymar, in pursuit of his first title with Brazil, remains at 75 goals for the national team, two short of Pele’s goalscoring 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 the 79th minute and was limping when he left the field.
Brazil coach Tite started with an attack-minded squad that included four strikers – Neymar, Vinicius Jr., Rafinha and Richarlison. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta played alongside Casemiro, the only defensive midfielder.
But Serbia recovered many players and managed to prevent Brazil from creating many important chances. Neymar tried to control the pace but struggled to get his release. He, Vinicius Jr. and Rafinha missed chances early on.
Brazil’s best chance before Richarlison’s opening goal was a low, long-range shot from Alex Sandro that hit the post in the 60th minute. Neymar had his best chances with a free kick in the 50th minute and a close-range penalty kick in the 55th minute.
Serbia had its own injury problems in the match.
“We have three key players who are injured, and it’s too much for us,” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic. “We are not Brazil with 200 million people. We are a very small country.”
The 30-year-old Neymar reached his third World Cup final as Brazil’s main attraction. He helped Selecao win the 2013 Confederations Cup and their first Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, but he is yet to win a major title with the national team.
Brazil, trying to win the World Cup for the first time in two decades, have been undefeated in their last 20 opening matches, with a record of 17 victories. It has finished first in its group in the last 10 World Cups.
Hikayat Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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