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Questions remain for Brazil and Uruguay

Brazil earned a costly win despite a wonder goal from Richarlison. Uruguay, meanwhile, isn't looking like the dark horse many thought they'd be

The 2022 World Cup has gifted us with a lot of upsets. Scoreless draws are also up, and what’s up with so much injury time? Qatar became the first nation to be eliminated and the first host nation to exit the tournament after two games. But Brazil and Uruguay have different expectations. 

Is Brazil still a favorite without Neymar? 

Brazil got off on the right foot due to Richarlison. The 25-year-old scored twice, including the tournament’s best goal so far. His brace helped Brazil win their opening match 2-0 vs. Serbia. The big favorites are one of the deeper teams whose bench would even be favorites. But Neymar’s injury problems won’t go away. 

Poor Neymar. It appears every World Cup he somehow gets hurt. The man hasn’t been able to stay on the field, and his ankle looked like a baseball. From the naked eye, it appears like a significant injury, but most of us are Twitter doctors. It’s been confirmed that Neymar will miss the group-stage games against Switzerland and Cameroon. Two very tough games, but Brazil will still advance, no doubt. Jogo Bonito is too talented to be any less than the last eight. They’ll face Switzerland next and then finish the group stage against Cameron.

Richarlison’s breakout tournament? 

If you watch the Premier League, you’re most likely familiar with Tottenham’s Richarlison. The 25-year-old scored a brace in the opening match against Serbia, including a beautiful second goal. The man recorded 4 million Instagram followers overnight after that goal. If that isn’t a breakout then what is? 

Richarlison isn’t a regular starter for Tottenham, but in Brazil he’s able to play the number 9 role well. His name is attached with a price tag of 60 million Euros. Big expectations come with a price tag of that magnitude. He’s already scored twice, and with Neymar out, he has the perfect opportunity to make the world aware of his name. 

The passing of the torch needs to happen now in Uruguay

Many considered La Celeste a dark horse. Drawn alongside Portugal, both were favorites to move on, but Ghana and South Korea have shown that they can hang around with these teams. A couple of players on the Celeste are up there in age. Edinson Cavani and Luís Suárez are both 35. They bring in their experience and leadership, but it will not be solely on them to guide Uruguay into the knockout stages again. It’s going to be up to the next generation. 

Fede Valverde seems to be built for that spotlight. He is Uruguay’s best player and is fishing fast above the ranks at Real Madrid. But Uruguay needs that goalscorer, and that’s where Darwin Núñez comes in. The 23-year-old has to take the torch from Suárez and Cavani, and he needs to make this World Cup his moment. The passing of the torch needs to happen now. 

The maestro isn’t here anymore

Oscar “El Maestro” Tabárez, the great Uruguayan manager, isn’t at the national team’s helm. Tabárez had managed Uruguay for three straight World Cups but was let go due to a poor opening qualifying campaign. El Maestro had managed over 200 matches for Uruguay, so it’s a bit different without him in the coach’s box. But Uruguayan fans were quick to point fingers at current manager Diego Alonso for the lackluster draw. 

You’d have to go back to 2002 to see an Uruguayan side at a World Cup coached by someone other than Tabárez. Alonso has big shoes to fill, and could it be if somehow Uruguay doesn’t make it to the group stage they will cut ties with Alonso? They have tough matchups against Portugal and Ghana to round the group stage.