No Neymar, no problem – at least on the pitch. This might be a time for new stars in Brazil shirts and few have better claim to that position than Richarlison.
Milton Keynes on a cold Tuesday night is no place for Samba skills and the Everton man decided this tie with something straight out of MK Dons’ League Two playbook, rising highest at a corner to head home.
His impact in Neymar’s wake spoke for a year that has seen him become a regular for the national side and be compared with the original Ronaldo. But his simple goal may not have made up for those who attended hoping to watch the £198million man show off.
MATCH STATS AND FACTS
Brazil (4-3-3): Ederson; Danilo, Marquinhos, Pablo, Alex Sandro; Allan, Arthur, Paulinho (Walace 69); Willian (D Costa 68), Firmino (Gabriel Jesus 46), Neymar (Richarlison 8)
Goals: Richarlison 45
Cameroon (4-3-1-2): Onana (Ondoa 46); Fuchs, Kana-Biyik, Banana, Bong; Mandjeck, Kunde Malong (Olinga 76), Djoum; Choupo-Moting (N’Jie 65); Bakoken (Bassogog 68), Ekambi (Zoua 90)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Eng)
Maybe the bitter weather was all just a bit too brutal for Neymar. Some of the Brazilian press pack, even bundled up, decided to stay indoors to watch the game.
It felt about as far from the Maracana as it is possible to be. Those flying over from domestic clubs for the game had traded sun for slight showers and near freezing temperatures.
As if to add to the strangeness of the occasion, Brazil were not even wearing their famous yellow strips.
Then Neymar went down injured and the life was temporarily sucked out of this ground. He had walked over to the touchline in the fourth minute to speak to the physios.
The Paris-Saint Germain man then returned to the pitch, took three touches of the ball – beating two men – and whipped a shot towards the top corner before going down again.
Richarlison, a £40m man himself, came on in his place. It felt like little trade-off for the fans who had gathered pitch-side pre-match for photos with the and cheered his name loudest when the Brazil line-up was being announced ahead of kick-off.
Given the record football attendance at the Stadium:MK of 29,669, the fact Brazil can command as much as £2.5million to visit stadiums on their ‘Global Tour’, and the brief flashes from Neymar that promised an entertaining display, it was a genuine shame to see their star man depart so early.