Brazil kick-started their FIFA 2018 World Cup South American qualifying campaign with a 3-1 victory over Venezuela on Tuesday, while Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay posted their second wins, and Argentina gained their first point.
Willian scored twice — after just 37 seconds and again in the 42nd minute — as Brazil rebounded from a humbling loss to Chile on Thursday last week, as qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia got underway.
“It was a great game, we could have scored even more goals,” said Willian, who opened the scoring with a hard shot that Venezuela goalkeeper Alain Baroja could not control.
He doubled the score with another thunderbolt past Baroja, set up by a scintillating solo run by Filipe Luis.
Venezuela responded through Christian Santos in the 64th minute, but 35-year-old striker Ricardo Oliveira sealed the win for Brazil in the 73rd.
While Brazil were celebrating their first three points of the campaign, Copa America champions Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay all notched their second victories in as many matches to stand tied on six points apiece.
Chile defeated 10-man Peru 4-3 in Lima, Ecuador followed up their shock defeat of Argentina last week with a 2-0 victory over Bolivia in Quito, and Uruguay downed Colombia 3-0 in Montevideo.
Argentina, still struggling to shake off the disappointment of losing the Copa America final in July — their second defeat in a major final in 12 months — were held to a scoreless draw by Paraguay in Asuncion.
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino praised the fortitude of his team — again without injured captain Lionel Messi as well as injured forward Sergio Aguero.
However, he was frustrated they could not get the victory over a team they thrashed 6-1 in the Copa America semi-finals.
“I am not satisfied with the point,” he said. “I am happy with the effort that the players put in. I am unhappy because we needed to win the match.”
Argentina face Brazil next, when qualifying resumes next month.
It is not clear if Messi would be back from a serious knee injury by then, while Brazil would be able to welcome back the suspended Neymar.
In Quito, Ecuador showed no sign of a letdown in the wake of their win over Argentina last week.
Amid torrential rain and puddles of standing water on the pitch, Ecuador were clearly stronger.
Conditions improved in the second half, and Ecuador broke through in the 81st through Miller Bolanos, with Felipe Caicedo adding a penalty in stoppage-time.
The difficulty of the conditions and the solid efforts of Boliva goalkeeper Daniel Vaca kept Ecuador at bay for some time.
Substitute Juan Cazares hit the post in the 79th minute, and two minutes later, Cazares’ pass was exploited by Bolanos, who fired home an angled shot from the right.
Five minutes into stoppage-time, Caicedo sealed the win with a penalty straight up the middle after he was taken down by a diving Vaca.
In Montevideo, captain Diego Godin led the way for Uruguay.
Godin opened the scoring with a header past Colombian keeper David Ospina in the 34th minute. Striker Diego Rolan doubled the lead in the 51st minute and second-half substitute Abel Hernandez added the insurance goal in the 88th.
In Lima, Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas scored two goals apiece for Chile in their 4-3 win over Peru.
Sanchez opened the scoring in the seventh minute. Peru equalized in the 10th through Jefferson Farfan, but were reduced to 10 men in the 23rd when Christian Cueva was sent off.
Peru still managed to seize the lead when Farfan converted a penalty in the 36th minute, but Vargas answered in the 41st and Sanchez put Chile ahead with his second goal in the 44th.
Vargas made it 4-2 just minutes after the break, Peru trimming the margin with Paolo Guerrero’s goal in stoppage-time.
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