By Martyn Herman
DOHA - Brazilian striker Richarlison's spectacular second goal to secure a 2-0 victory over Serbia on Thursday was a stroke of "genius" according to his club team mate Hugo Lloris.
Richarlison has suffered a stop-start few months since joining the France keeper at Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in July, but for Brazil he is currently unstoppable.
His brace against Serbia on his World Cup debut, including a swivelling horizontal volley that screamed into the net, underlined why he is now Brazil's undisputed number nine.
France captain Lloris said he was not surprised to see the former Watford and Everton striker submit an early entry for the goal-of-the-tournament reel.
"I'm happy for him. He's probably the least fancied player of the team but he is a fighter and showed yesterday the part of genius that is in him," Lloris told reporters on Friday ahead of world champions France's Group D game against Denmark.
Richarlison's brace took his tally for Brazil to 19 goals from 25 starts and nine in his last seven appearances for the Selecao, a remarkable strike rate at international level.
It would have also helped silence any remaining doubters about the 25-year-old's credentials to wear one of the most cherished shirts in world football, even if he has been slow to make an impression under Antonio Conte at Tottenham.
"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," former England striker and BBC pundit Alan Shearer said.
While Richarlison's second goal looked like it was made on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach, his opening effort was an opportunist lunge as he reacted quickly to convert a rebound.
Shearer said Richarlison's ability to score all kinds of goals was a huge boost for Brazil.
"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," Shearer said.
"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."
His team mates were equally effusive in their praise.
"He's a great guy. He deserves it. That's Richarlison. You give him a chance, he scores. You should see him in training. He shoots from anywhere and everywhere, all sorts of angles.
"He's an incredible player," team mate Antony said.
Manager Tite clearly agrees as Richarlison is keeping the likes of Gabriel Jesus out of the starting line-up and he will be keeping his fingers crossed the striker stays fit.
It was only a few weeks ago that Richarlison was left in tears as a calf injury appeared to have shattered his dream of playing in the World Cup for Brazil.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Writing by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)