Brazil 2 – 1 DPR Korea: Maicon Magic, Rocking Robinho and Korean Commitment.

  1. The Brazilians HAD to meet the high standards set by Germany in order to end this round as a title contender, if not the favourites. And while they didn’t set the tournament alight, they did enough to suggest that they’re good for a bet. The Brazilians played a Federer like game, managing to demonstrate superiority and bag the 3 points, without really giving the impression of getting out of second gear. Although DPRK did get the goal, I don’t think you could call this a close match.
  2. DPRK for their part, completed a trio of superlative performances including Japan and South Korea. Disciplined, durable and energetic to the end, the North Koreans shed their garb of enigma to demonstrate why their 105th ranking belies their ability to compete at the world cup. When Yu-Nam Ji burst through the defensive cordon in the 89th minute, he had both the pace and stamina to get past a surprised Lucio and the presence of mind to slot the ball past a hitherto unemployed Julio Cesar.
  3. The game was a tactical delight, with DPRK lining up in a Christmas tree formation forcing Brazil to play out wide and crowding out Kaka, Robinho et al to foil their attempts to work their way through the middle. Brazil didn’t put in enough quality crosses – especially given the aerial capability of Luis Fabiano. And given the defensive approach of DPRK, I would have expected the full backs Maicon and Bastos to spend much more time pushing up and wide to deliver those crosses.
  4. Robinho was the livewire of course, and his pass for his Man City team mate Elano was the pass of the first round so far. Perfectly placed and weighted to precision, it allowed Elano to strike it without breaking stride, almost passing it into the goal. Especially good given how tight and compact the DPRK team was. To find a pass of that nature in a crowd speaks of vision. Man City must wish they had a sunny beach so Robinho could replicate this form for them week in and week out.
  5. Maicon. Magical Maicon. Just a sample of the Brazilian flair we’ve seen down the ages. Did he actually mean that as a shot on goal? Who cares! Did Ronaldinho mean to chip Seaman from 50 yards? The fact is that he tried it. And it was a fantastic goal. The goalkeeper was just a yard out and was caught a fraction out of position by the rocket. I heard a view on the Guardian podcast that the world cup has usually been won by the teams with world class full back pairing. (Lizerazu/ Thuram in 1998, Cafu  & Carlos 2002, Zambrotta & Grosso in 2006). I think Brazil are well looked after in this department in 2010.

A word on North Korea – so little is known and so much imagined about life in North Korea, that simply having them at the world cup is a testament to the role of sport in the world today. And to watch Jong Tae-Se’s emotions spilling over even before the match had begun has to be one of the moments of this world cup.

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