Raphina
Raphina’s delivery into the box set up two Brazil goals

Leeds winger Raphinha helped Brazil to fight back to a 3-1 win over Venezuela after coming off the bench for his international debut.

The 24-year-old, who withdrew from a squad in September as Premier League clubs blocked players going to high-risk Covid areas, set up two goals.

“Tite asked me to do what I did with Leeds,” said Raphinha, referring to Brazil’s coach.

“I don’t think I let him, nor my team-mates, nor the Brazil fans down.”

Brazil trailed 1-0 at half-time in Caracas after Eric Ramirez’s goal for the hosts, raising the possibility of the five-time World Cup winners losing to Venezuela for the first time in 18 qualifying matches for the tournament.

However Tite brought on Raphinha in place of Everton Ribeiro at half-time and, aided by fellow second-half substitutes Vinicius Jr and Antony, he turned the game around.

Raphinha’s corner was headed in by Paris St-Germain defender Marquinhos for the equaliser on 71 minutes before Gabriel Barbosa scored a penalty to put the visitors ahead.

Deep into stoppage time, Raphinha whipped in a cross for Ajax’s Antony to make the game safe.

“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 added.

“So I think that I gave my best and it was good for me individually and to help my team-mates on the pitch.”

Paraguay deny Messi and Argentina

Lionel Messi
Messi has five goals in 11 games for club and country so far this season

Argentina could not break down Paraguay in their World Cup qualifier despite enjoying the majority of possession in Asuncion.

The visitors were without Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez in attack and initially struggled to create clear-cut chances before the game opened up in the second half.

Joaquin Correa missed the best of Argentina’s best chances while Messi curled a free-kick just wide.

Paraguay came closest to a goal when Carlos Gonzalez blazed over from close in with just two minutes remaining.

On the final whistle, fans invaded the pitch to try and take selfies with Messi in the wake of the stalemate.

Brazil, who have won all nine of their qualifiers, and Argentina fill the top two positions in South American qualifying at the midway point of their campaigns to make next year’s tournament in Qatar.

The top four teams will go through to the finals automatically.

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