Richarlison may have to justify his place as Brazil’s number nine to outsiders but he used his debut on the World Cup stage to demonstrate exactly why coach Tite is unswerving in his admiration. Tottenham’s striker is up against formidable competition for his place in the team in Qatar from the likes of Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus and Rodrygo of Real Madrid, while Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino did not even make the journey.
In a squad overflowing with attacking riches, Tite has made Richarlison his first-choice striker to complement the gifts of Neymar and Vinicius Junior, and was the spearhead as the tournament favourites opened with an impressive 2-0 win over Serbia at Lusail Stadium.
Richarlison ended Brazil’s frustration in the face of Serbia’s massed defensive ranks when he pounced after goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic turned away Vinicius Junior’s shot just after the hour. Then real moment of magic arrived, a piece of skill that had the finest traditions of Brazilian football running right through it.
Richarlison initially failed to control Vinicius’ cross but re-adjusted instantly, taking to the air and showing perfect technique and athleticism to flash home an unstoppable right-foot volley. Richarlison’s second goal made it nine in his last seven Brazil appearances, further evidence of why he is held in such regard by Tite and making him his country’s first player to score twice on his World Cup debut since Neymar in 2014.
He is in some ways a workhorse surrounded by more flamboyant attacking talents, but Richarlison is the complete striker when at the top of his game, offering tireless work rate as well as high levels of skill.
Richarlison has had a stop-start opening to his Spurs career following his £60m summer move from Everton, with injuries stalling his progress, but this was a performance that showed what an asset he is for Brazil and will be for his club side in the future. Former England striker Alan Shearer told BBC Sport: “He’s a man in form in that yellow shirt. He is yet to score in the Premier League for Spurs but for Brazil he is on fire.
“The positioning of Richarlison to pick up those scrappy little goals, the ones where the keeper is going to tap them out in and around the six-yard box, give me as much satisfaction as the incredible second goal he scored.
“He’s in the right position. He gets his shot away. Watch his movement. He’s first to react as all good strikers are. It looks very simple but it’s not. You’ve got to get in there then finish it. It’s very, very good centre-forward play.”
Richarlison’s match-winning display also added to the weight of evidence suggesting the sheer strength and all-round quality of Brazil’s squad makes them favourites to lift the World Cup in this same stadium.Neymar was busy but quiet overall, and also appeared to pick up an injury, while Vinicius dazzled. They could not make their own breakthroughs but helped Richarlison get the job done to snuff out Serbia’s hopes.
Brazil could have added more in the closing stages as Tite made the sort of changes that will have their rivals wincing with jealousy at their strength in depth, introducing Arsenal’s Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli, Manchester United pair Antony and Fred, and Real’s Rodrygo.
Manchester United’s Casemiro showed all his vast experience, hitting the woodwork along with Alex Sandro, while behind them is Chelsea veteran Thiago Silva and Liverpool’s outstanding goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who did not have a save to make.
Brazil’s army of supporters are always expectant at World Cups and their first game in any tournament carries a touch of sporting theatre. Their yellow shirts flooded the Lusail Stadium before kick-off and were spread all around in the crowd of more than 88,000.They will be hoping, with good cause, to return to this venue for the final. If Brazil’s players were weighed down by expectation it did not show amid remarkably relaxed scenes as they arrived before kick-off.
When the team bus stopped in the tunnel, members of the squad joined together in a dance before disembarking. When Neymar strolled into the dressing room he was joined by team-mate Raphinha in a samba. Riddled with World Cup nerves? Not exactly.
And there was a glorious outpouring of Brazilian joy for each of Richarlison’s goals, members of the team and the squad pouring towards the corner flag to swamp the scorer. It was a genuine show of unity and celebration. When Neymar strolled into the stadium he was sporting a garish pair of shimmering golden headphones. His time will come out here in Qatar – but on this night it was Richarlison who stood out as Brazil’s golden boy.
India crowned champions of inaugural U19 Women’s T20 World Cup
Titas Sadhu, Archana Devi and Parshavi Chopra took two scalps each while Gongadi Trisha and Soumya Tiwari made useful scores as India Under-19 scripted a memorable seven wicket win over England Under-19 to seal the inaugural Women’s Under-19 World Cup in Potchefstroom. India U19 chased down the paltry target of 69 in the 14th over.
England U19 68 in 17.1 overs (Ryana Macdonald Gay 19; Titas Sadhu 2-6) lost to India U19 69/3 in 14 overs (Soumya Tiwari 24*; Alexa Stonehouse 1-8) by seven wickets
ICC names all-woman panel of match officials for 2023 Women’s T20 World Cup
The upcoming women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa will have an all-woman line-up of match officials, in what will be a landmark first in the game.On Friday, the ICC announced the panel of three match referees and ten umpires, featuring officials from seven countries. The match referees are GS Lakshmi (India), Shandre Fritz (South Africa) and Michell Pereira (Sri Lanka). The on-field and TV umpires will be Sue Redfern (England), Eloise Sheridan (Australia), Claire Polosak (Australia), Jacqueline Williams (West Indies), Kim Cotton (new Zealand), Lauren Agenbag (South Africa), Anna Harris (England), Vrinda Rathi (India), N Janani (India) and Nimali Perera (Sri Lanka).
Selecting this panel was part of the governing body’s “strategic ambition of advancing the involvement and visibility of women in cricket,” an ICC statement said.
The panel will also have the most number of women umpires and match referees in a global ICC tournament, four more than the nine who are at the ongoing women’s Under-19 T20 World Cup.
“Women’s cricket has been growing rapidly in recent years and as part of that, we have been building the pathways to ensure more women have the opportunity to officiate at the highest level,” Wasim Khan, ICC’s general manager of cricket, said. “This announcement is a reflection of our intent in this space and just the start of our journey where men and women enjoy the same opportunities across our sport.
“We are committed to continuing to support our female match officials and provide opportunities to showcase their talents on the global stage. I wish them all the best for the tournament.”
The eighth edition of the women’s T20 World Cup begins with hosts South Africa facing Sri Lanka on February 10. Defending champions Australia are in Group A with Bangladesh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Arica. Group B has England, India, Ireland, Pakistan and West Indies. The top two teams from each group will move into the semi-finals.The matches will be played in Cape Town, Gqeberha and Paarl with the final scheduled for February 26 at Newlands.
ACC to meet in Bahrain on Feb 4, call on Asia Cup expected
The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) will meet in Bahrain on February 4. A decision on the Asia Cup is expected at the much-awaited meeting where the representatives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will be present. It could be a stormy affair in the Persian Gulf city of Bahrain, with the two boards having been at loggerheads.
The hosting right of the upcoming Asia Cup, which will be an ODI championship among the continental sides, has been a bone of contention, with the BCCI and the PCB being at odds over the venue. The August-September championship was allotted to the PCB but in view of political tension between India and Pakistan, the BCCI had declared that the Indian team will not be in a position to travel to Pakistan.
The BCCI’s refusal was initially escalated by former PCB chairman Ramiz Raja who threatened to boycott the World Cup in India later in the year. A similar stand seems to have also been taken by Najam Sethi, who succeeded Raja, but there seems little support from other ACC members to the PCB position.
The BCCI and the PCB sparred recently after Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary and ACC president, announced the schedule of the council. It was responded with sarcasm by Sethi who said in a social media post, “Thank you @JayShah for unilaterally presenting @ACCMedia1 structure & calendars 2023-24 especially relating to Asia Cup 2023 for which Pakistan is the event host. While you are at it, you might as well present structure & calendar of our PSL 2023! A swift response will be appreciated (sic).”
The PCB chairman’s comments were rejected by ACC which declared that Shah’s post was not unilateral. “It has come to our knowledge that PCB Chairman Mr Najam Sethi has made a comment on the ACC President unilaterally taking the decision on finalising the calendar and announcing the same. The ACC wants to clarify that it has followed well established and due process. The calendar was approved by its Development Committee and Finance & Marketing Committee in a meeting held on December 13th, 2022.
“The calendar was then communicated to all the participating members individually, including Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), via an email dated December 22nd, 2022. While responses were received from certain Member Boards, no comments or suggested modifications were received from PCB. In view of the above, Mr Sethi’s comments on a social media platform are baseless and are vehemently denied by the ACC,” the ACC said backing Shah’s position.
With the meeting in Bahrain happening in such a backdrop, it could be a stormy affair. A BCCI official, who was in Mumbai for the unveiling of Women’s Premier League teams, confirmed a final decision on the Asia Cup will be taken in Bahrain on February 4.
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