– You are leaving Pombo Here alone – Tite laughed. Brazil’s coach had just finished his media duties for the evening, the espresso cup in his hand drained. “I won’t be able to hug Richarlison?” – he said disappointed. The winner of Brazil was linked in an anti-doping control, waiting for the call of nature.
“I’m trying to pee, it’s hard,” Richarlison said, though he didn’t let time go to waste.
“I was able to call Nye and see how he is,” Richarlison revealed. Neymar buried his head in his yellow and green jersey to hide tears after spraining his right ankle, “tricking” Tite by playing through the pain barrier for another 11 minutes against Serbia. “I told him to put ice on it,” Richarlison said as if he were a member of Brazil’s medical staff.
Despite Tite’s confidence Neymar will “continue playing in the World Cup”, past injuries in the competition are a haunting theme of his career and will hold him back.
Rickharlison promised to go to his room at the Westin before bed. “When I get to the hotel, I’ll go see how he’s doing,” he said. Richarlison probably won’t sleep, the buzz of scoring the goal of the tournament is unlikely to fade on the short bus ride from Lusail.
“I think it was a beautiful goal,” he said. “I already scored such a goal for Fluminense and Everton. Today I had the opportunity to score an acrobatic goal, possibly one of the most beautiful goals of my career. It was a tough match so I think it was one of the Most beautiful of my career. Scissor kicks are still a trademark of Richarlison. He even Scored one Last week at a training camp in Turin.
“It’s the result of practice,” Fred said in the mixed zone. “It’s not easy to get out there and score. It’s the result of his training and the whole group.”
Practice makes perfect. At half-time against Serbia, the score still 0-0, Richarlison gathered his team-mates around him and said that something needed to change. “I told them I needed a ball and it arrived, I was ready and I managed to score.”
The first was a tap-in after Vanja Milinkovic-Savic spilled a Vini Jnr shot. The second was something else. Earlier this week, Richarlison’s team-mate Pedro, a contender for the role of Brazil’s starting striker, said the Tottenham Hotspur striker had the essence of a Brazilian – the essence of a Brazilian. The goal proved it.
On the metro going to the game, there are fans from all over the world heading to Lusail to watch Brazil. The idea that they play football as it should be played with flair and skill enders, it has a hold on the imagination.
Affluent Qataris in Brazil shirts wanted to show their kids what football is all about. Richarlison’s goal was just that, the manifestation of the Brazilian ideal that dates back to Pele and Garrincha in 1958.
It started with an outside leg cross from Vinicius Jnr, Richarlison then stun the ball with his left, lifted the ball high in the air, placed a hand on the floor and spun his right foot into it, capoeira style, hooking a shot past the admirable Milinkovic-Savic.
As with his first goal, the entire Brazilian bench jumped out of the dugout and sprinted down to the corner flag to celebrate with him and the rest of the team.
Even Tate moved away. “Sometimes you can’t explain feelings,” he said. “They are feelings.” The 61-year-old, dressed in a cobalt blue suit, wanted to convey “how much work there is behind the goal.”
He spoke of the physios, now working on Neymar, who helped get Richarlison back into shape after the calf injury he suffered against former club Everton in mid-October.
Richarlison was “terrified”, panicked that it could ruin his World Cup. Tite was also concerned.
When Gabriel Jesus was sent off in the 2019 Copa America final against Peru, potentially jeopardizing Brazil’s chances of winning the competition, Richarlison came on and Cooley scored the penalty that killed the game.
He was top scorer at the 2020 Olympics when Brazil won the gold medal and Brazil’s top scorer in 2022. “It’s like O’Professor (Tite) says,” Richarlison reminded everyone on Thursday night. He “smells” of goals. That’s why he is picked on Arsenal’s in-form Jesus.
Seeking to explain Serbia’s 2-0 defeat, their coach, the legendary Pixie Stojkovic, said: “We are not Brazil with 200 million people (to choose from). We are a small nation.” If Dusan Vlahovic and Filip Kostic are injured and Aleksandar Mitrovic is not fully fit, that is a problem.
Tite, on the other hand, dismissed his options in Qatar and those he left at home such as Copa Libertadores winning strikers Gabriel Barbosa, Roberto Firmino, Matheus Cunha and Hulk. It serves to underline the competition Richarlison has seen off to make the number 9 shirt his own.
He is one in 200m. “It’s a child’s dream come true,” Richarlison smiled.
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(Photo: Markus Gilliar – GES Sportfoto / Getty Images)