Football News

“Marmite” Richarlison shows why he is Brazil’s No.9 with wondergoal in victory over Serbia

By Harry Edwards

Published: 21:22, 24 November 2022

R9 scored for Brazil at the World Cup again, but this time it was Richarlison running the show as Tite’s men beat Serbia 2-0.

When Richarlison came off injured in the 52nd minute of Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 win over Everton in mid-October, there were worries among the Brazil camp that he wouldn’t make it back in time for the World Cup. For some this would have been a surprise based on his Tottenham form with just two goals in 15 games since joining the club in the summer, especially with the talent Brazil could call up instead.

Before the tournament, it was expected that one of Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Richarlison or Gabriel Barbosa would miss out, and in the end it was only the north London duo who made it. Then there was the battle between Richarlison and Jesus over who would start against Serbia. Again many looked away from Richarlison, not just because he had only returned from injury two weeks before the World Cup, but also due to Jesus’ goalscoring start to life at Arsenal. But Richarlison is a different beast for Brazil.

Prior to the World Cup, Richarlison had a good record for Brazil with 17 goals in 38 matches across all competitions, though only two of those have come in major tournaments. Making his debut after the 2018 World Cup, Richarlison had found the net once in the 2019 Copa America — scoring in the final — and again at the 2021 Copa America, this time in the group stage. More important though was his form in 2022.

In six games this year, before the World Cup, Richarlison had been directly involved in nine goals, scoring seven and providing a further two assists. Only Japan had been able to stop him from scoring, but he had just 19 minutes against Samurai Blue at the start of June and still managed to set up the winning goal. There was only one option for Tite and, after a slow first half in which Brazil struggled to connect in attack, Richarlison justified the start with two goals.

His first was an instinctive finish, reacting quickly after Vinicius Jr’s shot was palmed into a dangerous area by Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. It wasn’t the hardest of strikes, but it allowed Richarlison to show off his positional awareness and the fact that he is always switched on in the box in anticipation, at least when playing for Brazil.

“He’s a predator isn’t he? He certainly sniffed that one out,” Martin Keown said of Richarlison on BBC’s commentary. “There’s barely a moment before it comes to him and he’s the first to react and anticipates it really well coming off the goalkeeper.”

But while that goal will eventually be forgotten, Richarlison’s second will remain for years to come. The ball from Vinicius was put slightly behind Richarlison on his run into the box, so the Tottenham man was forced to improvise.

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Controlling and flicking the ball up with his left foot, Richarlison swivelled to unleash an acrobatic volley with his right foot, giving Milinkovic-Savic no chance of saving his shot. Now on 19 goals for Brazil, no player has netted more than the 25-year-old since he made his debut in September 2018. Tite said before the game: “Richarlison smells like goals, He doesn’t want to know, he wants to finish. He wants to go for the goal.”

This in stark contrast to his Tottenham form, and Keown believes the importance of playing for Brazil brings something extra out of Richarlison.

“We talked about what this jersey does to a player – he’s not scored many for Spurs but when he’s in his national jersey he can’t stop scoring,” he added.

“Richarlison is marmite at times but today he really showed why he is Brazil’s No.9,” said Micah Richards.

“You’ve got the likes of Jesus on the bench, Firmino is at home, he’s not even here – and Richarlison has shown today why he’s No.9, he was brilliant.”

It wasn’t a completely positive result for Brazil, however, as Neymar had to come off with an injury after some harsh treatment from Serbia. By half-time, Neymar had already been fouled five times — the joint-most in the tournament — and a further four came before his substitution. The nine fouls on Neymar was just one short of the 10 he suffered against Switzerland in Russia, the most in a single game at the 2018 World Cup. Then, he finished with 26 fouls won, with only Eden Hazard (27) fouled more times across the tournament.