Two goals from Richarlison inspired Brazil to a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Serbia on Thursday night.
An unexpected game came to life after half-time as Brazil found their groove and Richarlison scored two stunning goals to give the pre-tournament favorites the perfect start to life in Qatar.
Neymar almost attacked Serbia goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic directly from a corner kick after ten minutes, and the former Manchester United goalkeeper reacted well to knock the ball away.
Milinkovic-Savic came to his side’s rescue again soon after as he came out of line to take on the electric Vinicius Jr., diving at the Real Madrid man’s feet to head off the danger before he could volley.
Rafinha and Vinicius Jr should have done much better with chances soon after as Brazil, though dominant, failed to ask the 6’9 beast any questions between Serbia’s positions in the first 45 minutes.
After the break, Brazil’s first real chance came ten minutes later as Neymar misjudged a cross and slashed a good chance just wide of the goal.
Alex Sandro then hit the post with a fierce shot from distance, before Richarlison finally opened the scoring on the hour mark.
Some fine work in the penalty area from Neymar ended with the ball at the feet of Vinicius, who parried his shot into the path of the Tottenham striker to slot home and put Brazil deservedly ahead.
His first was a little tricky, but there was nothing but the second row for Richarlison. With 15 minutes left, he rose to meet an outrageous bicycle-kick cross that smashed into the back of the net and sealed the win in emphatic style.
Casemiro made a sensational attempt at the third goal as he shot on target from distance, but Milinković-Savic was equal to it.
They did not need the third, because Serbia offered too few forwards and allowed Brazil to win the waltz.
GK: Alisson – 6/10 – I didn’t have much to do.
Right-back: Danilo – 5/10 – Defensive sound But such games require more in attack.
Center back: Thiago Silva – 8/10 – He did everything he needed in defense and acted like midfielders in possession, blasting through Serbia’s defense with ease.
Center back: Marquinhos – 7/10 – Equally comfortable as his defensive partner. He will be relieved to avoid a fight with Mitrović.
Left-back: Alex Sandro – 5/10 – More needs to be done down the left wing.
DM: Casemiro – 8/10 – Great passing range. He didn’t have much of a defense to do so, and had all the freedom in the world to highlight his more creative side.
DM: Lucas Paqueta – 10/7 – He didn’t play as deep as his role suggested as he had plenty of chances to pull strings in midfield.
RM: Raphinha – 4/10 – He ran deadlocked and guilty of some truly underwhelming shots on goal. I didn’t look for it against the bruised Serbian defenders.
AM: Neymar – 6/10 – Lots of fouls targeted him but she fell deeper in the second half trying to organize things a bit better. Make some questionable decisions at times.
Left midfielder: Vinicius Junior – 8/10 – A constant threat down the left and he came out with several passes.
Forward: Richarlison – 7/10 – Incredibly calm before his goals but looked like a huge threat after the break.
SUB: Fred (75′ for Paqueta) – 6/10
SUB: Rodrigo (75 min for Vinicius) – 7/10
SUB: Anthony (79′ for Neymar) – 6/10
SUB: Gabriel Jesus (79′ to Richarlison) – 6/10
SUB: Gabriele Martinelli (87′ for Ravenha) – N/A
Director: Titi – 7/10 – He was criticized online by fans who did not see the value of substituting his best players when the match had already been won. Made a number of clever calls here.
GK: Vanja Milinkovic-Savic – 7/10 – He flew off his line to make a brave challenge on Vinicius Jr. in the first half. He ordered his fund.
Center back: Milos Veljkovic – 6/10 – A few desperate blocks at times but you can’t skip the effort.
Center back: Nikola Milinkovic – 7/10 – A real monster against the Brazil forwards in the first half. Too bad he lost his clean sheet.
Center back: Strahinja Pavlovic – 7/10 – He wasn’t afraid of Ravenha’s pace at all. He went toe-to-toe with him and was always on top.
Right midfielder: Andrija Zivkovic – 5/10 – He did a solid job defensively but his lack of movement in attack ensured Serbia remained on the defensive for the first hour.
Midfielder: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic – 6/10 – He had a few tasty runs from the deep but Casemiro largely kept things out.
CM: Nemanja Gudelj – 7/10 – His yellow card early in the second half changed the game as he couldn’t maintain his impressive defensive performances.
CM: Sasa Lukic – 6/10 – He did a decent defensive job. He seemed determined to tear Neymar’s shirt at times.
Left midfielder: Filip Mladenovic – 4/10 – His lack of offensive production was a major problem before he was replaced.
AM: Dusan Tadic – 5/10 – I had a weird sweet moment but he couldn’t play like he used to at club level.
Attacker: Aleksandar Mitrović – 2/10 – Hungry to serve but did little to help himself.
SUB: Ivan Elik (57 min for Gudelj) – 5/10
Sub: Nemanja Radonjic (57 minutes for Zivkovic) – 5/10
Sub: Dusan Vlahovic (66 minutes to Mladenovic) – 5/10
SUB: Darko Lazovic (66 min with Lukic) – 5/10
Sub: Nemanja Maksimović (83 min for Mitrović) – N/A
Director: Dragan Stojkovic – 5/10 – He tried to position his team to be hard to beat but couldn’t find a way to live with Brazil. He seemed to chase the shadows in the second half as he changed systems.