Neymar is injured, Richarlison scores for Brazil at the World Cup

LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) – With Neymar limping off the field with an ankle injury, Richarlison came through for the “Seleção.”

A spectacular acrobatic kick followed a light tap from close range as Richarlison scored both goals in Brazil’s 2-0 win over Serbia on Thursday at the World Cup.

After the game, the Tottenham forward learned the extent of Neymar’s injury.

“The most important thing for us is to have him at 100% for the next game,” said Richarlison, whose first goal came after a build-up started by Neymar. “When I get to the hotel I will go and see how he is.”

Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Neymar sprained his right ankle. He declined to speculate on whether he would be available to play in the team’s next game against Switzerland on Monday.

“We iced it while he was on the bench and then in physical therapy,” Lasmar said. “There is no test planned at the moment, but we will plan it if necessary. He will be under observation. We will know more tomorrow.”

Neymar was also injured at the 2014 World Cup. Playing at home in Brazil, his tournament ended with a back injury in the quarter-final against Colombia when he had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. Brazil ended up losing to Germany 7-1 in the semi-finals.

Neymar was booked nine times in the match against Serbia, four more than any other player so far at this year’s World Cup. But while they took care of Neymar, the opposition defense could not stop Richarlison.

He had his back to the goal as he used a single touch to lift the ball into the air near the penalty spot, then spun and leapt off the ground before tapping the ball into the net with his right foot in the 73rd minute.

“My childhood dream has come true,” said Richarlison, who is playing in his first World Cup. “We knew it would be difficult to get past them. I’m used to playing against defensive teams like this in England. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities I had, and I did.”

Brazil had struggled to get past the Serbian defense until Richarlison scored from close range in the 62nd. Vinícius Júnior assisted both goals.

Neymar, seeking his first major title with Brazil, went on to score 75 goals for the national team, two of Pelé’s scoring record.

He was tackled a couple of times and sprained his right ankle in the second half. He cried on the bench after being substituted in the 79th and limped as he left the stadium.

Brazil coach Tite started with an attack-minded squad that included four strikers – Neymar, Vinícius Júnior, Raphinha and Richarlison. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paquetá played alongside Casemiro, the lone defensive midfielder.

But Serbia had several players back and were able to keep Brazil from creating many significant opportunities. Neymar tried to control the tempo but struggled to break free. He, Vinícius Júnior and Raphinha all wasted chances early on.

Brazil’s best chance before Richarlison’s opening goal had been a low long shot from Alex Sandro that hit the post in the 60th. Neymar had his best opportunities with a free kick in the 50th and a shot from near the penalty spot in the 55th.

Serbia had their own injury problems going into the game.

“We have three key players injured – it’s too much for us,” Serbia coach Dragan Stojković said. “We are not Brazil with 200 million people. We are a very small country.”

The 30-year-old Neymar arrived at his third World Cup as Brazil’s main attraction. He helped the “Seleção” win the 2013 Confederations Cup and its first Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, but has yet to win a major title with the national team.

Brazil, who are trying to win their first World Cup in two decades, are unbeaten in their last 20 opening games with 17 wins. It has finished first in its group in the last 10 World Cups.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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