ANALYSIS | Richarlison: Brazil’s most important player?

Richarlison silenced many a critic with his second-half brace in Brazil’s World Cup opener with Serbia, which included a spectacular bicycle kick. Prior to his two goals, Richarlison’s place in the starting 11 was questioned, with fans suggesting Arsenal’s Gabriel Jesus was a superior alternative.

When Richarlison fails to score, he often receives widespread criticism. His tendency to play the villain on the field frequently encourages the media and rival fans to highlight some of his theatrics and his failings but, for Brazil, his competitive streak can only be beneficial, barring some needless bookings.

By the end of the tournament, Richarlison could become Brazil’s most important player. His work as a number nine goes far beyond goals, as he provides clever link-up play and unselfish movement in order to create space for the likes of Neymar and Vinicius. He also stands at just over six feet tall, enabling the forward to develop his heading ability which gives him a slight edge over his direct competitor, Jesus.

Since making his debut in September 2018, Richarlison has scored 19 goals in 39 appearances for his nation – that’s a goal every other game. When you pair his goal-scoring with his tenacious ability to press, it allows Brazil to defend from the front and win the ball high up the pitch. As the lead player in a high press, the onus is often on Richarlison to tackle and intercept the ball which provides his team a platform to be even more of a threat in a pivotal area of the pitch.

The 25-year-old was born in Nova VenĂ©cia, a municipality that lies 478 miles north of Rio. His journey to become Brazil’s number nine has been a long windy road after first breaking into European football with Watford, who often battled relegation during his time. Although naturally combative, that same grit and steel needed in a relegation battle has clearly stayed with Richarlison, who plays his football with a hunger to fight for every ball.

A true combatant, who leaves his heart and soul on the pitch, Richarlison is a dying breed and Brazil would be far less effective without him.

Mark Marston | GWFN

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