World Cup hosts Brazil were made to work hard for a 2-0 win on Tuesday over a Zambia side whose coach quit last week and who were missing three players reportedly facing arrest in a bizarre club-versus-country row.
The South Americans had to wait nearly an hour before Oscar and Dede scored in a seven-minute spell at Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium, the unlikely venue for the first meeting between the five-times world champions and the 2012 African champions.
Brazil, who made six changes from the team who beat South Korea 2-0 on Saturday, battled to their 10th win in 11 games, a run interrupted by August's 1-0 defeat in Switzerland.
Zambia, who failed to qualify for the World Cup, were playing under 35-year-old interim coach Patrice Beaumelle after his flamboyant fellow-Frenchman Herve Renard, who had picked the squad, resigned to take charge of Ligue 1 side Sochaux.
The Chipolopolo were without Nathan Sinkala, Stopilla Sunzu, Rainford Kalaba, who are all based with the Democratic Republic of Congo club TP Mazembe, after the Zambian FA said they "failed to arrive in time".
Media reports said that Zambian immigration authorities had issued a warrant for the trio's arrest after they returned to their club without permission.
TP Mazembe initially refused to release the players, saying they had "malaria and digestive problems", but the Zambian FA demanded they travel to Lusaka in any case for examination.
The website of Zambian Football said the trio were then told to travel with the squad to China but instead went back to Mazembe.
The website reproduced a statement from the Zambian immigration service saying the players "crossed into Congo without following the immigration exit procedure".
"The search has revealed that any exit made by the players was done illegally as they did not appear before immigration authorities as required," said the statement.
"The department intends to arrest the players and anyone who may have aided their illegal crossing. We have alerted our officers throughout the country especially those at the borders to intercept the players on sight."
Brazil, with no such internal troubles, predictably dominated Tuesday's game, although they struggled to create many clear openings.
Neymar had the best first-half effort when he burst through the Zambia defence and saw his shot saved by Kennedy Mweene.
Mweene also did well to save at the feet of Daniel Alves after halftime but could do nothing to keep out Oscar's effort from just outside the area as it took a wicked deflection and looped into the net in the 59th minute.
Central defender Dede headed the second from a Neymar free kick but Zambia refused to stop chasing Brazil and kept the scoreline respectable.
Zambia's fortunes have slipped since Renard led them to the 2012 African title. They were knocked out in the first stage of this year's tournament and eliminated from the World Cup qualifying competition by Ghana.
Photograph: Edison Vara/Reuters