He may not be prolific at club level, but there’s something about that famous yellow jersey which brings out the best in Richarlison. There has been plenty of debate as to who should be wearing the No.9 shirt for Brazil, but we won’t be hearing any complaints now. Gabriel Jesus has his fans, and many were surprised at Roberto Firmino’s omission from the World Cup squad, but here Richarlison delivered a masterclass, proving to the world why Tite has so much faith in him. His record this season for Spurs is modest – two goals in 15 appearances in all competitions, and none in 10 Premier League outings – but he’s got 19 in 39 caps for his country now, nine in his last seven, and here he demonstrated all of his penalty-box prowess. The reaction for the first goal was outstanding, quicker than the Serbian defender to convert after goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, once of Manchester United, had pushed out Vinicius Junior’s low strike. Then came the encore, Richarlison controlling Vinicus’ astute pass with one touch before adjusting his body superbly to find the corner with a spectacular, acrobatic finish. It was pretty much his last act. He was replaced by Jesus soon after, with Tite eager not to take any risks with his damaged ankle. No wonder. Brazil are going to need him if they are to experience the Joy of Six in Qatar.
We all know Brazil’s history in this tournament, and we all know how much joy they have given the world with flair players down the years. So while the pre-match focus fell largely on Neymar, what a treat it was to see the youngest member of Brazil’s front four take his first steps on the big stage, and look entirely at home while doing so. Vinicius, at 22, is already some player, already a Champions League and La Liga winner, and already one of the most exciting young forwards in world football. Here, we saw why.
He had a hand in both of Richarlison’s goals, his shot parried for the first and his cute pass expertly finished for the second. He might have had a couple himself, but skewed one effort wide and was denied by a brave stop from Milinkovic-Savic on another occasion. He’ll feel he should have done better with both opportunities. But every time he got the ball, which was not often enough if truth be told, he looked like he would make something happen. He is the kind of player to get you off your seat, and the best thing is, he’s only going to get better and better.
Amid all the attacking talent on display, here was another reminder that if you win the midfield, you usua…