A show of what is to come, and also a look back. Brazil illustrated why they are favorites for this competition with a landslide victory, but it was inherent in this that Richarlison delivered a truly magical first World Cup moment since the Selecao in perhaps two decades.
His sensational goal, both skilful and flowing but also thunderous and definitive, was the kind of play that created the fame of the country’s football in the first place; it stimulated the imagination… it made you want to watch them.
It was up there with the dummy of Pelé, the deflection of Josimar and the pivot of Ronaldo. It was also the crowning achievement of that 2-0 victory over Serbia and of Richarlison’s fine individual performance, as the Tottenham Hotspur striker scored both goals.
Given the problematic nature of this World Cup, it is worth pointing out that Qatar now has the advantage of being forever associated with a moment that will replay for years to come; which will be part of the World Cup tradition.
If so, it could well become central to Brazil’s revival and reclaiming a trophy they have appropriated.
That’s the math Qatar made in hosting the tournament. It’s the emotional blackmail of this World Cup, and also the simple beauty of football.
No matter how you feel about this tournament, it’s impossible to see that and not have a knee-jerk emotional response. It was too beautiful to look at, too impressive.
First there was the touch at pace to both haunt the ball and set it up, then there was the freestyle jump to propel it into the bottom corner with an overhead.
Lusail Stadium roared its wonder and approval. Such a performance showed why Brazil could be back here in four weeks, starting as they want to finish.
This display wasn’t always so dazzling, and there was a lot of graft to go with the art. It almost made him more commendable, however, Brazil fought on and fought their way through a stubborn Serbia to finally give themselves the space to speak out.
It’s not what Spain did in Costa Rica, but it was almost as impressive in a different way. They had to use all their cunning and – as Richarlison illustrated – their imagination.
If that meant you could never tell what either of the Brazilian strikers would try next, but you knew precisely what you were going to get from Serbia. It was a hard solidity like granite.
They immediately set about building a defensive fort, supported by the towers of Strahinja Pavlovic, Milos Veljkovic and Nikola Milenkovic. It was a lot of Serbia to go through and around.
Brazil notably aimed for long shots early on, but it wasn’t quite because they couldn’t get close to the goal. They clearly didn’t like goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic, and Neymar almost caught him with a vicious corner.
Set pieces were one of the few moments when Neymar was able to stand with some space. Most of his match was spent with three players constantly around him. And, when he finally broke free, there was Nemanja Gudelj to absolutely pull him out with an abrasive challenge.
The only shortcoming of such a robust defensive unit as Serbia’s is that they weren’t that fast in turns. There were signs from the start that Brazil could finally get through this with pace and complexity.
Casemiro passed Vinicius with a sublime through ball, before Thiago Silva did the same for Richarlison.
In one of the moments when Milinkovic-Savic felt brave enough to play the ball at Pavlovic’s feet, Raphinha was straight and too fast for him. The striker should have scored or, really, squared it off.
Pavlovic redeemed himself minutes later with a superb stretched challenge to deny the same player. It was brilliantly provocative, but also reflected how close Brazil were getting. Serbia was pulled here and there. Alex Sandro broke the post. Gaps have arisen.
Vinicius burned one of those holes with a run to the end to force a save from Milinkovic-Savic, leaving Richarlison to leap forward and finish.
Brazil has made its breakthrough. Serbia’s game plan inevitably fell apart. Tite’s team has begun to speak out. There were so many shocks, so many moments of adventure. Casemiro hit the bar with a glorious effort. They tried anything.
The only question is whether they actually seemed more cohesive when Neymar left, but that would be rude after a display like this, and indeed unfair considering how Serbia had crumbled then.
It really only reflects Brazil’s immense strength and depth as Tite simply brought in another scary front three. They have so many things going for them, including diligence and that elusive element of Brazilian magic.
It’s been a long time. The same goes for the expectation of the World Cup.