Brazil outclassed Serbia, 2-0, in their World Cup opener on Thursday as Richarlison’s second-half goals, including a spectacular overhead kick, propelled the five-time champions to the top of Group G.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward has been in fine form when wearing the golden yellow kit of Brazil this year, and he opened the scoring with an easy tap-in before doubling the lead with his acrobatic effort.
The Brazilian coach’s decision to go with four forwards — Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and Richarlison — in his attacking lineup paid off handsomely as the South Americans dominated the match and made Serbia work hard every time it went forward.
Vinicius used his acceleration to constantly beat his man while Neymar, playing in a free role, often found pockets of space, but a well-drilled Serbian defense kept Brazil at bay in the first half.
Serbia had been sweating over the fitness of their all-time top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic, but coach Dragan Stojkovic named him in the starting lineup.
Unlike Brazil’s forward line, however, the Fulham striker found himself isolated up front.
The second half was one-way traffic as Brazil shifted through the gears.
The breakthrough came just after the hour from brilliant work by Neymar to find Vinicius, whose initial shot was saved by Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, but Richarlison was in the right place to tap in the rebound for his first World Cup goal.
Serbia had been playing conservatively up to that point and had no choice but to pour forward, which gave Brazil more space, and the second goal from Richarlison brought the biggest roar of the night from the Brazilian contingent.
As Richarlison attempted to control a cross from Vinicius, the ball popped up over his head and he leapt up in the air to volley home a bicycle kick and seal the win for Brazil.
Portugal 3, Ghana 2
Cristiano Ronaldo wrote his name in the record books to become the first man to score in five World Cups in a 3-2 victory for Portugal over Ghana on Thursday.
Ronaldo drilled home a penalty in the 65th minute of the Group H encounter to set his side on its way and while Andre Ayew equalized for Ghana, Portugal turned on the afterburners with two quick-fire goals to effectively seal the deal at Stadium 974.
Joao Felix produced a delicate finish to give them the lead and Rafael Leao added a third to hand Portugal its first win in the opening match of the World Cup since 2006, even if Osman Bukari pulled another one back for Ghana late on.
The win was not the most convincing for Portugal and will come as some relief for Fernando Santos’ side, which leads the group with three points and next will face Uruguay on Monday, when Ghana plays South Korea.
For all of Portugal’s enterprising attacking play and the goal scoring performances of Felix and Leao, it was Ronaldo who again showed his unparalleled ability to draw the limelight.
“I think Cristiano is a phenomenon, a legend … in 50 years’ time, we will still be talking about him,” Santos said.
Against Ghana, Ronaldo seemed to exert a planetary gravitational pull on the ball, with teammates seeking him out at every opportunity.
For vast swaths of the match, everything revolved around Ronaldo with almost all his side’s attacking moves ending up at his feet.
For Ghana, the youngest squad at the World Cup, its early ambitions rarely stretched beyond the halfway line as the lowest-ranked side in the tournament set about keeping almost everyone behind the ball at all times in the first half.
Switzerland 1, Cameroon 0
An apologetic Breel Embolo scored the winner against the country of his birth to hand Switzerland a 1-0 victory over Cameroon in their World Cup Group G clash at the Al Janoub Stadium on Thursday.
Embolo swept home a low Xherdan Shaqiri cross after 48 minutes and then stood still with a rueful frown on his face as his teammates celebrated around him. The 25-year-old was born in Yaounde but reared in Basel.
Cameroon was the better side in the opening half and might have had the lead as Karl Toko Ekambi, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Martin Hongla all missed good chances against a lackluster Switzerland side that battled to get out of first gear.
But the Swiss were much improved in the second period and took the lead through Embolo’s well-worked goal. Ruben Vargas missed an excellent chance to score a second but was thwarted by goalkeeper Andre Onana as Cameroon ran out of steam.
Uruguay 0, South Korea 0
Uruguay defender Diego Godin and midfielder Federico Valverde both hit the woodwork as the South Americans were held to a 0-0 draw by South Korea in their opening Group H game on Thursday.
Wearing a black mask to protect a facial fracture, Son Heung-min started for the South Koreans, yet it was teammate Hwang Ui-jo who came closest to breaking the deadlock, but he scooped his shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
The best chance of a pulsating first half fell to Uruguay captain Godin, whose glancing header from a corner hit the foot of the left-hand post just before the break.
Valverde fired a stinging shot in the final minute of regulation time that hit the top of the post as the two sides battled to a stalemate in front of a crowd of 41,663.
Source: Voice of America