Spotlight feature on Raphinha's incredible Brazil debut and what next for the Leeds United winger
Raphinha did not take long to make a huge Leeds United impact.
It was clear within weeks of his October 2020 transfer from Rennes that a £17m fee was an absolute snip.
One year later, the winger needed just 45 minutes to show what he can do for Brazil.
Maybe the 24-year-old felt like he needed to make up for lost time upon his debut for the Selecao in Friday morning’s clash against Venezuela in Caracas.
Or maybe he’s just an incredibly special player, one that almost single-handedly turned what would have been a shock Brazil defeat into a 3-1 victory.
All three goals were created by the Whites winger whose stock shot up further with the most sparkling of international debuts.
Raphinha had to settle for a place on the bench for Friday’s World Cup qualifier, even with Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar suspended and both Everton’s Richarlison and Liverpool’s Bobby Firmino injured.
Boss Tite instead opted to line up with Flamengo’s Everton Ribeiro on the right flank and Lyon’s Lucas Paqueta on the left, the duo supporting Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus and Flamengo’s Gabriel Barbosa upfront.
Venezuela are the only team from South America to have never qualified for a World Cup. Until the early hours of Friday morning, they had only scored four goals at home to Brazil in their history in World Cup qualifiers.
But by the 11th minute they had bagged themselves another as defenders Fabinho and Marquinhos slipped when looking to clear Yeferson Soteldo’s cross which was headed home by Eric Ramirez.
Brazil completely failed to get going although 32-year-old Ribeiro was one of the better players on the pitch on the right flank, supported by Danilo who continually got forward from full back.
Ribiero threatened to cause problems but was then switched to a more central role as Danilo became more or less a right winger.
Brazil started to create chances and a deflected Ribiero effort cannoned back off the crossbar whilst City striker Jesus squandered a good chance when firing wide.
But Tite’s side just looked all at sea until everything changed in the second half following the introduction of Raphinha.
Tite had plenty of strong attacking options on his bench in addition to Raphinha, notably Real Madrid striking sensation Vinicius Jr and rapidly emerging Ajax winger Antony.
But Raphinha proved his first port of call and incredibly set up three goals as part of a display that would have been a sparkling debut for any side, let alone Brazil.
The winger instantly began hugging the right touchline and was picked out within two minutes of the restart, cutting inside and seeing his low shot blocked and cleared.
The Whites ace instantly began linking up with Danilo and it quickly became apparent that he was also on free-kicks and corners.
Twelve minutes into his Brazil debut, Raphinha looked to have bagged an assist as an inviting free-kick from the left was whipped into the box and met by the head of Chelsea defender Thiago Silva to seemingly draw Brazil level.
The Blues centre back was ultimately marginally offside and Tite then made his second change as Pacqueta was hooked for Real star Junior.
A good opening was wasted three minutes later as Raphinha found himself free on the right but Danilo opted for a central pass to Jesus who tried to go solo rather than playing in the Whites winger.
Two minutes later, Raphinha let fly with a cross-cum-shot from the edge of the box that looped narrowly wide.
But the Leeds star bagged his first of two assists just three minutes later as his outswinging corner from the left hand side was converted by a strong header from PSG star Marquinhos.
Brazil were level and Raphinha was the man pulling the strings, the winger then cutting inside five minutes later but seeing his firm low shot tipped wide.
Tite then made his third and final change as Jesus was replaced by Antony who moved upfront as Junior shifted to the left.
Yet it was more magic from Raphinha that led to Brazil taking the lead.
The Whites star burst clear as part of a rapid counter attack and stormed towards the Venezuela goal through the middle of the park.
A fine piece of skill and quick shift to his left put a defender on his backside and Raphinha played in Junior whose shot was saved.
But the rebound only fell to Barbosa who was hacked to the ground for a penalty and the forward picked himself up before converting his spot kick into the roof of the net.
That won’t go down as a Raphinha assist but his stellar work for Brazil’s third in the sixth minute of added time most definitely will.
This time the Whites star was picked out in the area and danced his way to the by line before delivering a precise pull back for Antony who had the simple task of tapping home from close range to seal a 3-1 victory that hardly looked likely at half time.
Antony and Junior were both excellent off the bench. Not as good as Raphinha, though, and even when Neymar, Richarlison and Firmino are back, on this evidence he should take some shifting from the team.
A message from the Editor:
Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.
We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.
Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.
With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.
Click here to subscribe.
For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.
Thank you Laura Collins