“We now have six more games to go,” said Richarlison. When it comes to the World Cup, Brazil do not set modest targets.
For us, a journalist from Globo Sport had said in 2014 after Brazil were sent home a 1-7 defeat to Germany, a World Cup final is always the minimum target. Eight years and two editions later with Brazil not getting that far in either, Richarlison showed little had changed.
The scorer of both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 win was asked by HT to talk the media through the second, the acrobatic side-volley after lofting Vinicius Jr’s pass made with the outstep of his boot. In the bowels of the Lusail Stadium where the highest perch in the media tribune is the equivalent of being on the seventh floor of the building, Richarlison broke into a smile before saying: “I think it was a beautiful goal.”
“I have scored such goals at Fluminense and Everton. Today’s effort was acrobatic and easily the nicest one I gave scored for my country.” After a pause, he amended that to being “one of the best goals of my career.”
It was a goal that had the normally reserved Tite leave his seat and celebrate with the staff. “Some feeling can’t be explained,” said the head coach with a broad smile. “It is teamwork. People don’t know how much goes on behind the scenes, how much the physios work to ensure that athletes give (of) their best. I wanted to share the happiness.”
How deeply Tite feels this is about the collective was evident when he corrected a questioner saying, “we not I. Tite has a limited role in this.”
The conversation soon veered to Brazil coming here with a number of players who can be No. 9, something they didn’t have in a while leading to a lot of load on Neymar Jr. “We have six or seven players who can do that now and we couldn’t bring all of them. Richarlison was fantastic but we have left other equally good players back home,” said Tite.
Richarlison is among seven forwards here with the Brazil team who are making their World Cup debut. This is Neymar Jr’s third World Cup and Gabriel Jesus was in Russia four years ago.
By the time Richarlison was addressing the media early on Friday morning, Tite had left but not before telling the media manager, “you are going to leave him (Richarlison) alone to face the media? And you are not going to let me hug him in front of all these people?”
On being a No.9, Richarlison said: “As the Professor (Tite) says, I can smell goals. That is what happens. I knew if I got the ball I would send it to the back of the net. The ball came and I could get it to touch the net. It was beautiful.”
In seven games for Brazil this year, Richarlison has scored nine goals.
The presence of one or more No. 9s has helped Neymar Jr play with greater freedom.
“Brazil was very predictable for a while due to its dependency on Neymar,” Zico said in September.
“Now he is just the icing on the cake, the guy who will deliver something extra. Brazil has other players up front. A lot of players,” said the great attacking midfielder of yesteryear who was also FC Goa’s coach in the Indian Super League.
Having been in the “Arab world”, Tite said he knew it was important to ensure there was no drop in physical intensity in the second half. And Brazil achieved that by repositioning Lucas Paqueta and moving him up the park, he said. “That variation had an impact.” It was also important to ensure that the players had “light foot” at the break, get them to calm down, he said. “So that they could pass the ball.”
The drop in intensity was something that surprised Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic. “We collapsed in the second half and I want to know why. I had spoken to the players a couple of days ago and they had assured me that they were okay physically. Obviously, that was not the case,” said the former Yugoslavia midfielder and one of the best players of his generation.