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Richarlison’s spectacular golazo sends Brazil past Serbia at World Cup

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Richarlison scored two goals, the second with a spectacular acrobatic kick, to help Brazil beat Serbia 2-0 Thursday at the World Cup.

In the 73rd minute, the striker used one touch to get the ball up in the air and then spun around and got off the ground before knocking the ball into the net with his right foot.

Brazil had struggled to get past the Serbian defence until Richarlison scored from close range in the 62nd in a buildup that started with Neymar.

Vinicius Junior assisted on both goals.

Neymar, seeking his first major title with Brazil, stayed at 75 goals for the national team, two shy of Pele’s scoring record.

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The Brazilian forward had ice taped to his ankle and was crying on the bench after being substituted in the 79th minute. Neymar injured his right ankle in the second half and was tackled hard a few times during the match — limping and grimacing before having to leave the field. He was in tears on the bench as doctors began treating him in the final minutes of the game at Lusail Stadium. He pulled his shirt over his head as doctors taped ice around his foot.

Brazil’s forward Neymar, centre, walks with a swollen ankle at the end of the World Cup Group G match between Brazil and Serbia at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images)

Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said Neymar sprained his ankle.

“We put ice on it while he was on the bench and then in physiotherapy,” Lasmar said. “There is no test scheduled for now but we will schedule it if needed. He will be under observation. We will know more tomorrow.”

Brazil coach Tite said he was “confident that Neymar will continue playing at the World Cup,” but Lasmar said it was too early to comment on the extent of the injury.

Tite started with an attack-minded squad that included four forwards — Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Raphinha and Richarlison. Attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta played alongside Casemiro, the lone defensive midfielder.

But Serbia had several players back and was able to keep Brazil from creating many significant opportunities. Neymar tried to control the pace but struggled to find space up front. He, Vinicius Junior and Raphinha all squandered chances early on.

Brazil’s best chance before Richarlison’s opening goal had been a low long-range shot by 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.

The 30-year-old Neymar arrived to his third World Cup as Brazil’s main attraction. He helped the “Selecúo” 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, trying to win its first World Cup in two decades, is unbeaten in its last 20 opening games, with 17 victories. It has finished first in its group in the last 10 World Cups.

Ronaldo leads Portugal over Ghana

Cristiano Ronaldo closed his eyes, took in a deep breath and then made World Cup history.

The Portugal striker became the first male player to score at five World Cups with his 65th-minute penalty in a 3-2 win over Ghana on Thursday.

Andre Ayew equalized for Ghana eight minutes later, but Joao Felix regained the lead for Portugal in the 78th and Rafael Leao added a third. Osman Bukari reduced Ghana’s deficit in the 89th.

The 37-year-old Ronaldo was looking to showcase his talents to potential new clubs after having his contract terminated at Manchester United this week. After wasting two good chances in the first half, he tumbled under a challenge by Ghana defender Mohammed Salisu to earn a penalty.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the World Cup group H soccer match between Portugal and Ghana, at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar. (Hassan Ammar/The Associated Press)

Wheeling away after the ball struck the back of the net, a smiling Ronaldo performed his usual leap and swivel in the air — the crowd roared his trademark “SI-UUU” as he did the pirouette — before getting mobbed by teammates.

He has now scored in every World Cup since his first in 2006 and has a record 118 international goals.

It was a wild finish to a slow-burner of a World Cup match that ended with Portugal defender Danilo clearing the ball away from near the line in the ninth minute of stoppage time. Ronaldo, who was sitting in the dugout after being substituted, put his hand on his head in relief.

Ronaldo, naturally, took center stage at the start of his fifth and likely last World Cup, particularly after a fraught buildup to the tournament in which he gave an unauthorized, tell-all interview criticizing Manchester United’s manager, owners and teammates. On Tuesday, he split with the English club, meaning he is in the shop window in Qatar.

Another scoring record adds to the luster of his resume. A penalty against Iran in 2006 started his tally of World Cup goals — it is now up to eight in 18 matches — and he lifted the ball beyond Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati with his latest spot kick after a long, theatrical buildup to the penalty.

Bruno Fernandes arguably played a more important role in Portugal’s win, setting up the team’s second and third goals with perfectly weighted through-balls.

Still, Portugal’s players almost threw it away after losing their composure in a chaotic final few minutes, featuring the comical scene of Bukari performing Ronaldo’s “SI-UUU” celebration after his goal.

In the other Group H match, South Korea and Uruguay drew 0-0.

Embolo’s goal lifts Switzerland over Cameroon

Breel Embolo’s goal lifted Switzerland to a 1-0 win over Cameroon at the World Cup on Thursday and he kept his promise not to celebrate scoring against the country where he was born.

The Swiss forward from Yaounde struck with a right-foot shot in the 48th minute, standing all alone eight metres out in the middle of the goalmouth to take Xherdan Shaqiri’s low pass.

Switzerland’s Breel Embolo, back, celebrates after scoring his side’s goal with teammate Granit Xhaka during the men’s World Cup on Thursday against Cameroon. (Ricardo Mazalan/The Associated Press)

Embolo then pursed his lips in a wry smile and held his arms out wide, before raising his hands in a gesture of apology as teammates rushed to him near the penalty spot.

He pointed toward Swiss fans behind the goal where he had scored then to Cameroon fans at the opposite corner of Al Janoub stadium.

The 25-year-old forward left Cameroon with his family when he was five. They spent time in France before settling in Switzerland, the country he is now representing at a second World Cup.

Though an African-born player scored, teams from Africa are now scoreless through the four games they have played at this World Cup. All have played higher-ranked teams, and Morocco and Tunisia earned 0-0 draws, respectively against Croatia and Denmark.

Cameroon’s streak of losses at World Cup finals tournaments extended to eight games dating back to 2002.

Brazil and Serbia are also in Group G and they meet later Thursday.

South Korea-Uruguay ends nil-nil

Another favoured team has failed to impress in the early stages of the World Cup.

This time it was South Korea holding South American power Uruguay to a 0-0 draw on Thursday, a result that probably favours the Asian team.

The draw at Education City Stadium was yet another early World Cup match with a surprising result. Argentina and Germany both lost their opening games in major upsets. This one hinted at being another.

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso said he was satisfied, and so did South Korea counterpart Paulo Bento. Alonso sounded less convincing.

“I’m more than happy with the result,” Alonso said. “I’m sure that this group stage will be determined by the last match. We all know the second game is key, and so is the third one. But this will not affect whether we qualify of not.”

Uruguay will next face Portugal in Group H while South Korea plays Ghana, with both games on Monday. The top two teams in the group will advance to the round of 16.

South Korea, with forward Son Heung-min wearing a mask to protect a broken left eye socket, always looked the more likely to score against the more experienced Uruguayans. The South Koreans were quicker, pressing from the opening whistle.

Many South Korean fans wore Batman-like masks in solidarity with Son, who was injured on Nov. 2 in a Champions League match playing for English club Tottenham. He had a few early chances but seemed to tire in the second half.

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Croatia coach sends Canada a stern message ahead of World Cup showdown

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Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic sent Canada a message Saturday at the World Cup. And he didn’t need the F-word to deliver it.

Dalic offered up a stern statement when asked about John Herdman’s emotional words after Canada’s 1-0 loss to Belgium on Wednesday.

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Asked in a pitchside interview what he had said to his team in a post-game huddle, the Canada coach replied: “I told them they belong here and we’re going to go and eff— Croatia. That’s as simple as it gets.”

While Herdman delivered the last line with a smile, Dalic clearly did not see the humour.

When a Canadian reporter at Saturday’s pre-game news conference asked Dalic for his team’s response to Herdman’s heat, the Croatia coach lectured his opposition ahead of Sunday’s showdown at Khlalifa International Stadium.

Dalic used the word “respect” 12 times in his answer.

“The Croatian team deserves respect from everyone … We respect everyone, equally so,” he said through an interpreter. “We expect our opposing teams to respect us. We are worthy of their respect. The Canadians must also have respect for us. This way of putting words together is not a sign of respect. We are the (2018 World Cup runners-up), not Brazil, Spain or other countries.”

“I shall not focus or comment on any other people’s comments,” he added. “We will be prepared (Sunday), we will be fit and we will demonstrate respect for Canada … and for everyone else. We expect respect just as we exercise this view”

Croatian forward Ivan Perisic then backed up his coach, saying simply: “I second the head coach and I cannot wait for the match to begin.”

Sunday may prove otherwise but it seems, motivationally speaking, Canada has taken a knife to a gunfight.

Both the 41st-ranked Canadians and No. 12 Croatia need to get points out of the match. Belgium tops Group F with three points while Croatia and Morocco both have one point after their scoreless draw.

Canada needs to secure at least a point if it hopes to have any chance of reaching the knockout round. A loss Sunday and the Canadians can finish with no more than three points while Croatia ups its total to four. And no matter what happens in Sunday’s match between No. 2 Belgium and No. 22 Morocco, one of those teams will have at least four points.

With only two teams advancing out of the group, that would render Canada’s final group game next Thursday with Morocco meaningless in terms of tournament progression.

“At the end of the day, both teams really have to win this game,” said Herdman.

Croatian reporters didn’t bother engaging Zlatko on Herdman’s inflammatory words. They had already done so, with tabloids back home having a field day.

In contrast, three of the first four questions in Herdman’s availability were about his post-game hot take. Another came later.

The Canada coach, who had already addressed the issue on Thursday, tried to laugh off the reaction he had sparked in the Croatia camp.

He insisted he was on task “and loving the experience.” And he rejected the assertion that his words were just another motivational tool.

“We’ve been waiting 36 years to get here. I’ve used all my motivation tactics in the 20-odd games it took to get here,” he said in self-deprecating fashion.

But he maintained his words to his players in the post-game huddle after Belgium were simply “to remind them that there’s another task ahead.”

And he was quick to compliment Croatia, calling it a “top top top top football team.”

“(A) hell of a test. Hell of a test for this team,” he added. “But we’re excited.”

Herdman called Sunday’s match a “defining moment for Canada in this World Cup. It’s one of those do-or-die games now that we have to perform in to stay at a World Cup.”

Dalic, meanwhile, called Canada “a tough team full of self-confidence.”

The two sides have never met before.

The Croatian roster features the likes of Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Perisic (Tottenham), Marcelo Brozovic (Inter Milan), Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea) and Mario Pasalic (Atalanta). Only six of its 26-man roster play at home in Croatia, with four of those at Dinamo Zagreb.

Despite that talent, Croatia had its hands full with No. 22 Morocco in its tournament opener, playing to a scoreless draw in a game that saw each team put just two shots on target.

Croatia goes into Sunday’s match riding a seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) dating back to a 3-0 loss to Austria in June in UEFA Nations League play. Croatia avenged that defeat with a 3-1 decision over the Austrians in September.

Croatia has outscored the opposition 9-3 over that run, which includes a win and tie against No. 4 France.

“With all due respect to Croatia, they have a very very good team. It’s going to be tough for us,” said Canadian midfielder Stephen Eustaquio. “But it’s going to be tough for them as well.”

The Canadians, who blamed traffic for showing up 41 minutes late for their news conference before the Belgium game, arrived two minutes early Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.

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