“You’re going to leave Pompo Alone here,” laughed Tait. Brazil’s coach finished his afternoon media duties when the espresso cup in hand ran dry. “Can’t I hug Richerlison?” he said in frustration. Brazil’s match-winner was on a doping regime, awaiting the call of nature.
“I’m trying to pee, and it’s hard,” Richelison said, though he didn’t waste time.
“I was able to call Ney and see how he was,” Richarlison revealed. Neymar buried his head in his yellow and green jersey to hide tears after spraining his right ankle to “fool” Tite while playing through the pain barrier for another 11 minutes against Serbia. “I told him to put some ice on it,” Richarlison said, as if he were a member of Brazil’s medical staff.
Despite the belief that Neymar “will continue to play at the World Cup”, past injuries in this competition are a haunting theme of his career and will drive him forward.
Richarlison promised to swing by his room at the Westin before bed. “When I go to the hotel, I’m going to see how he’s doing,” he said. Richarlison hardly sleeps, the buzz of scoring the tournament goal can’t fade on the short bus ride from Lusail.
“I think it’s a beautiful goal,” he said. “I have already scored a goal like that for Fluminense and Everton. Today I had the opportunity to score an acrobatic goal, perhaps one of the best goals of my career. It was a tough match and I think it was one of the most beautiful matches of my cricket.” Scissor kicks are a Richarlison trademark. Even he Scored one At a training camp in Turin last week.
“It’s a result of practice,” said Fred in the mixed zone. “It’s not easy to go there and score. It is a result of his training and that of the whole team.”
Practice makes perfect. At half-time against Serbia, with the score still 0-0, Richarlison gathered his team-mates around him and said something had to change. “I told them I wanted the ball, it came, I was ready and I scored.”
The first was a tap-in after Vanja Milikovic-Savic spilled a Winnie Jr. 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 has the essense do brasileiro, the essence of a Brazilian. This goal proved it.
Fans from all over the world were heading to Luceil to watch Brazil on the Metro to the game. Because they play football with skill and flair, it takes hold on the imagination.
The wealthy Qataris in Brazil shirts wanted to show their children what football was all about. Richterlison’s goal was precisely the expression of the Brazilian ideal, going back to Pelé and Garrincha in 1958.
It started with Vinicius Jr.’s outside-the-leg cross, Richarlison then shocked the ball to his left, lifted the ball high, put his hand on the floor and swung his right foot towards it, capoeira-style, for a shot. A lost Milinkovic-Savic passed.
As with his first goal, the entire Brazil bench jumped out of the dugout and rushed to the corner flag to celebrate with him and the rest of the team.
Even the tights were taken away. “Sometimes feelings can’t be explained,” he said. “Those are feelings.” Dressed in a cobalt blue suit, the 61-year-old wanted to convey “how much work went behind that goal”.
He spoke of the physios working with Neymar who have helped Richterlison get back into shape following his injury against former club Everton in mid-October.
Richarlison was “terrified”, fearing it could put a damper on his World Cup. Tait was also concerned.
When Gabriel Jesus jeopardized Brazil’s chances of winning the match in the 2019 Copa America final against Peru, Richelieu came on and Cooley collected the penalty that killed the match.
He was the top scorer when Brazil won gold at the 2020 Olympics and Brazil’s top scorer in 2022. “Like what Professor (Tite) says,” Richarlison reminded everyone Thursday night. He “smells” targets. That’s why he’s being picked over Arsenal’s stylish Jesus.
Trying to explain Serbia’s 2-0 defeat, their coach, the legendary Pixie Stojkovic, said: “We’re not Brazil (to select) 200m people. We are a small nation.” If Dusan Vlahovic and Filip Kostic get injured and Aleksandar Mitrovic isn’t fully fit, that’s a problem.
Tite, on the other hand, was juggling his options in Qatar and the Copa Libertadores-winning strikers Gabriel Barbosa, Roberto Firmino, Matias Cunha and Hulk who he left behind at home. It serves to underline the competition that has seen Richarlison make the No.9 shirt his own.
He is one at 200 meters. “It’s a kid’s dream come true,” laughed Richerlison.
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(Photo: Markus Gilliar – GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)