Brazil rally to beat Venezuela in qualifier as Raphinha enjoys dream debut

Raphinha had to wait a long time for his Brazil debut but it was worth it as the Leeds winger came off the bench to play a decisive part in his side’s 3-1 comeback victory against Venezuela in their latest World Cup qualifier.

The 24-year-old had earned his first national call-up in September but was forced to withdraw after Premier League teams refused to release players from England’s red list of Covid-19 high-risk countries, including Brazil. But when his chance came in Caracas, he seized it with both hands.

After going behind to Eric Ramírez’s early goal and looking like they might lose to Venezuela for the first time in 18 World Cup qualifiers, Brazil improved massively in the second period. Raphinha replaced Éverton Ribeiro at half-time and was involved in all three goals as Tite’s side made it nine qualifying wins out of nine.

Centre-back Marquinhos levelled from Raphinha’s corner in the 71st minute, but it took until five minutes from time for Brazil to get ahead, as Gabriel Barbosa was brought down for a penalty which he got up to convert. Raphinha helped make the game safe in stoppage time, crossing from the left for fellow substitute Antony to add a third for the visitors.

“I was really anxious to make my debut and after I wasn’t allowed to come the first time, I got even more anxious to be here and wear a Brazil shirt,” Raphinha said after the game. “Tite asked me to do what I did with Leeds and I don’t think I let him, my teammates, or the Brazil fans down.

“I think assists are worth the same as goals. As a wide player I like goals, of course, but when I set up chances for teammates to score goals I am happy. It’s like scoring a goal for me. I am happy not just to set up goals, but for the way I played.”

Raphinha’s impressive display will pose a selection dilemma for Tite, with Neymar set to return from suspension for qualifiers against Colombia and Uruguay. “I think it is a good doubt for [the coach],” Raphinha said. “It’s up to him decide now whether I play or not.”

Brazil lead the Conmebol qualifying group by eight points from second-placed Argentina, who were held to a 0-0 draw in Paraguay. Uruguay and Colombia also played out a stalemate, allowing Ecuador to go third with a 3-0 win over Bolivia. Chile’s hopes of qualification look all but over after they lost 2-0 in Peru.