A second-half brace by Richarlison, including a stunning overhead scissor kick, gave tournament favourites Brazil a 2-0 win over Serbia in their opening World Cup game at the Lusail Stadium on Thursday.
The record five-time winners had toiled at times in the first half but improved after the break and were rewarded when striker Richarlison followed in to score the opener in the 62nd minute when a Vinicius Junior shot was saved.
Vinicius then set up Richarlison to score again in the 73rd minute with a stunning acrobatic effort that is surely the goal of the World Cup so far.
The result continues Brazil’s superb record in the World Cup group stage, in which their last defeat came in 1998 against Norway, when they had already secured a place in the next round.
Tite’s side are now already on top of Group G ahead of Switzerland, who beat Cameroon 1-0 earlier and who are Brazil’s next opponents.
The scoreline here was the same as when these sides met in the group stage in 2018 but Brazil are determined to do far better than four years ago, when they lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals.
They have come to Qatar as the favourites for a sixth title, two decades after their last victory.
Other results in the opening round of matches in Qatar served as a warning, with their great rivals Argentina suffering a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia at the same stadium and Germany being shocked by Japan.
However, Brazil would have known not to take Serbia lightly, given that the side who lie 21st in the Fifa rankings are one of Europe’s most improved teams and topped their qualifying group above Portugal.
Yet it still would have been a huge shock for Brazil to lose at a ground where they intend to return for the final on December 18.
Tite sent out a very attack-minded side, with Neymar in support of Richarlison while Raphinha and Vinicius occupied the wings and Lucas Paqueta added creativity in central midfield.
Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, kicked off needing just two goals to equal Pele’s all-time record tally of 77 for Brazil, but he will have to wait a little longer to get them.
Serbia did their best to frustrate the Paris Saint-Germain superstar, who come close to scoring direct from an early corner that would have raised the roof at the magnificent Lusail Stadium, where the stands were filled with yellow and green.