LUSAIL, Qatar — Richarlison scored two goals, the second with a spectacular acrobatic kick, to help Brazil beat Serbia 2-0 Thursday at the World Cup.
In the 73rd minute, the striker used one touch to get the ball up in the air and then spun around and got off the ground before knocking the ball into the net with his right foot.
Brazil had struggled to get past the Serbian defence until Richarlison scored from close range in the 62nd in a build-up that started with Neymar.
Vinícius Júnior assisted on both goals.
Neymar, seeking his first major title with Brazil, stayed at 75 goals for the national team, two shy of Pelé’s scoring record.
Brazil coach Tite started with an attack-minded squad that included four forwards — Neymar, Vinícius Júnior, Raphinha and Richarlison. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paquetá played alongside Casemiro, the lone defensive midfielder.
But Serbia had several players back and was able to keep Brazil from creating many significant opportunities. Neymar tried to control the pace but struggled to find space up front. He, Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha all squandered chances early on.
Brazil’s best chance before Richarlison’s opening goal had been a low long-range shot by Alex Sandro that hit the post in the 60th. Neymar had his best opportunities with a free kick in the 50th and a shot from near the penalty spot in the 55th.
The 30-year-old Neymar arrived to 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, trying to win their first World Cup in two decades, are unbeaten in its last 20 opening games, with 17 victories. They have finished first in their group in the last ten World Cups.
In the other Group G match, Switzerland defeated Cameroon 1-0.
Brazil and Serbia also played in the group stage in 2018, with Brazil also winning 2-0 to reach the next stage at Serbia’s expense.
Since competing as Serbia in 2010, the country has not advanced to the knockout rounds of the World Cup. AP