Brazil made it three wins from three games in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying after grinding out a 1-0 victory over Venezuela.
Brazil were frustrated by Venezuela in Sao Paulo, but Roberto Firmino’s 67th-minute strike proved enough for the Selecao on Friday.
Firmino popped up with 23 minutes remaining in the absence of Neymar as Brazil stayed perfect to top the standings by two points ahead of rivals Argentina.
Back in action following last month’s 4-2 win in Peru, Tite made four changes – some enforced – to his starting XI, with the unfit Neymar, Casemiro (coronavirus), Philippe Coutinho and Weverton dropping out and Gabriel Jesus, Allan, Everton Ribeiro and Ederson coming in.
Brazil – who drew 0-0 against Venezuela at last year’s Copa America – found the back of the net inside seven minutes but the linesman raised his flag. Richarlison had scored after Renan Lodi’s mishit shot was palmed into the path of the Everton forward.
The South American champions controlled possession, but had nothing to show for it, struggling to create clear-cut chances.
An unmarked Jesus was unable to turn the ball towards goal just past the half-hour mark, instead scuffing an effort to Richarlison, who could only steer his close-range effort wide of the post.
Venezuela were rarely threatening, though Yeferson Soteldo slalomed into the penalty area and slid a cross into the six-yard box but Marquinhos intervened at the last moment to clear the danger.
Brazil had the ball in the back of the net again prior to half-time however Douglas Luiz’s effort was waived off for a foul on Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Farinez.
After a VAR review for handball was waived way nine minutes into the second half, Brazil finally broke Venezuela’s resistance 13 minutes later when the ball was headed into the path of Firmino, who made no mistake from close range.
What does it mean? Brazil roll on
It was not perfect, nor was it pretty, but Brazil got the job done behind closed doors. Without Neymar due to a groin strain and key midfielder Casemiro, Brazil were missing star quality against a stubborn Venezuela side. Despite not creating many clear-cut opportunities, Brazil managed to extend their winning streak to four matches, while they are unbeaten in their last 20 World Cup qualifying fixtures.
Firmino with confidence-boosting goal
Much has been said about Firmino, especially amid Diogo Jota’s remarkable run of form at Liverpool. But Firmino popped up when Brazil needed him most. It was his first goal in four matches and just his second since netting twice against Bolivia on October 9.
Brazil lack spark
While Brazil walked away with maximum points, it was far from convincing. Tite’s men appeared sluggish, and predictable in attack against the impressive visitors – lacking creativity in the final third.
Brazil are away to Uruguay in Montevideo on Tuesday, while Venezuela host Chile on the same day.