Brazil’s World Cup qualifying campaign received a much-needed boost as a Willian brace inspired the South American giants to a 3-1 win over Venezuela on Tuesday.
Dunga and Co. were heavily criticised after being completely outplayed by Copa America champions Chile in a 2-0 loss in their opening World Cup qualifier.
A return to home soil in Fortaleza and Willian’s heroics, however, proved to be the tonic as Brazil kick-started their quest to Russia 2018.
Willian opened the scoring after just 37 seconds as Venezuela goalkeeper Alain Baroja failed to deal with his shot, and the Chelsea star made it 2-0 three minutes prior to half-time with his sixth goal in as many matches for club and country.
Venezuela threatened to set up a grandstand finish after Christian Santos scored the nation’s first World Cup qualifying goal on Brazilian soil in the 64th minute, but 35-year-old striker Ricardo Oliveira sealed the points for Brazil with 16 minutes remaining.
It was Oliveira’s first international goal in a decade.
Both teams rang the changes after opening defeats in World Cup qualifying.
Alisson replaced Jefferson in goal for Brazil, while Filipe Luis, Marquinhos and Oliveira replaced Marcelo, David Luiz and Hulk.
Noel Sanvicente introduced Fernando Amorebieta, Alejandro Guerra, Ronald Vargas and Santos at the expense of Cesar Gonzalez, Franklin Lucena, Juan Falcon and Jeffren.
Fans in Brazil had barely taken their seats when Willian gave the home team a dream start less than a minute into proceedings.
The in-form attacker’s shot proved too hot to handle as Baroja failed to push the ball over the crossbar.
That sparked Venezuela into action, albeit briefly, Luis Seijas coming close to equalising with a long-range free-kick that almost snuck in at the far post.
Brazil dominated from that point on as Willian continued to be in the thick of the action.
He almost helped make it 2-0 in the 13th minute, rolling the ball across the six-yard box to veteran striker Oliveira, who was denied by Baroja.
Brazil had another golden opportunity to double the lead just past the half-hour mark but Douglas Costa – through on goal – opted to play the ball to Oscar, allowing Venezuela to clear their lines.
Willian all but sealed the points three minutes before half-time following a brilliant solo run from Filipe Luis.
Filipe Luis skipped past two defenders and cut the ball into the area and Oscar let the ball roll through his legs as Willian pounced to fire powerfully past Baroja again.
It was more of the same in the second half, Costa nearly scoring from a cross-cum-shot that clipped the top of the crossbar eight minutes after the break.
However, Venezuela found a way back into the contest thanks to Santos’ historic equaliser in the 65th minute.
Santos kneed the ball into the net from a set-piece as Venezuela scored their first World Cup qualifying goal on Brazilian soil, setting up a grandstand finish in the process.
Venezuela’s hopes of a comeback, though, were dashed by Oliveira with 16 minutes remaining.
Oliveira – the leading goalscorer in Brazilian Serie A – stooped low to head past Baroja after Venezuela failed to clear Costa’s delivery across the penalty area.