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FIFA World Cup: Brazil win the game but North Korea win the fans

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One of the biggest mismatches in FIFA World Cup history was on show at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg as world no.1 Brazil took on the lowest ranked team in the tournament, North Korea, more than 100 places below them. But on the pitch the difference hardly seemed to matter as Brazil won this extremely entertaining contest 2 - 1 with the North Koreans giving a very good account of themselves. All three goals came in the second half after a first half that saw the underdogs contain the favourites with defensive perfection. Maicon's stunner ten minutes into the latter half broke the deadlock and a 2nd was added by Elano 17 minutes later. North Korea pulled one goal back in the dying minutes of the game via Yi-Jun Nam to provide us with quite a nerve-racking finish to what was perhaps the game of the tournament thus far.

Brazil were in the mood of making an example of their opponents North Korea on the night and hence started off with an extremely offensive formation with players of enviable attacking prowess. Luis Fabiano started up front on his own with Kaka and Robinho hovering around him to help out in case he ever required company. The experienced Gilberto Silva and Juvenuts midfielder Felipe Melo sat in front of the back four to provide cover while Elano marauded the right flank for the Samba Kings. North Korea brought in a 5 man defence in order to fend off the intimidating and scary attack the team sheet of their opponents displayed. The 'Asian Wayne Rooney' Jong Tae-Se started on his own up front with Hong Yong-Jo supporting him in a 4-man midfield.

The first few minutes of the game didn't produce any clear cut chances but what was encouraging and also somewhat amusing to see was the fact that the North Koreans were taking the game to the overwhelming favourites on the night, Brazil. The Samba Kings had a couple of long distance efforts blocked away by the Korea goalkeeper Myong-Guk Ri but nothing really tested the 23-year old. Tae-Se showed some glimpses of his brilliance, skipping past defenders and taking the shot on, hardly afraid or intimidated by the big name players opposing him. The same attitude was shared by his teammates even though their formation reeked of nervousness, anxiety and probably even too much respect for the opposition.

Both teams were restricted to long range efforts with Brazil having some good build up play that just flattered to deceive. Maicon and Michel Bastos also came forward and played an active role in the 5-time World Champions' efforts to break the deadlock. The latter even had a few punt shots on goal from a distance, and while blessed with a wicked left-foot, did not have 'Roberto Carlos-esque' accuracy. Brazil controlled possession by quite a margin restricting their opponents to counter attacks only, but failed to produce anything despite having the Jabulani for most of the first half between their feet.

North Korea executed their plans of pressing hard and keeping it tight at the back brilliantly, and the Brazilians seemed to be succumbing under the pressure applied by their opponents. Their lack of ideas with the final ball and sometimes, rather surprisingly, lack of quality in providing quality balls into the box also played a pivotal role in keeping the scoreboard quiet. Dunga's team tried very hard to construct and implement play through the middle but North Korea put numbers on the ball and kept the Selecao at bay. The scoreboard flashed 0 - 0 at half time, but the North Koreans seemed to have won the first 45 minutes owing to their fantastic tactical superiority.

Brazil received a free kick just 5 minutes into the 2nd half after Kaka was brought down just a couple of yards outside the box. Michel Bastos stepped up to take the kick but his effort missed by a meter or so and the score remained locked at 0 - 0. The Koreans first taste of World Cup action in 44 years turned bitter when Maicon gave Brazil the lead in the 55th minute. Elano set the Inter Milan full back through on the right, and his attempted cross fizzed past the oblivious North Korean goalkeeper and nestled into the inside the post. Here comes more criticism for our favourite little ball, the Jabulani. Maicon struck it from quite a tight angle and it was another one of those supernatural goals that broke the deadlock in another tight affair in the tournament.

Luis Fabiano had a wonderful chance to make it 2 - 0 and once and for all put an end to this audacious performance from the Asians, but after controlling the pass from Robinho with his chest, the Sevilla striker sent the ball over the crossbar.

Brazil did double their lead in the 72nd minute via Galatasaray midfielder Elano. Robinho's world class through ball found the midfielder with ounces of space in the box on the right and he made no mistake with the finish. Dunga in his usual unconventional attire was elated with what he had witnessed in the last 20 odd minutes. It was all Brazil after the goal as they looked to add a third to their evergrowing scoreline. With a minute of regulation time left on the clock and completely against the flow of play, North Korea pulled a goal back thanks to Ji-Yun Nam, whose finish after a neat little knockdown from Tae-Se cemented him and his team in Korean history forever.Yun Nam will enter those quiz question shot at school children and play an adventurous role in bedtime fairy tales, for slotting the ball with precision beyond Julio Caesar, who hardly had a touch on the ball all game. It proved to be too little too late for the North Koreans who would still leave the stadium with their pride very much intact.north_korea_score.jpg

Brazil next take on the physical yet talented Ivory Coast team who carry the burden of all African hopes in the tournament. The Samba Kings looked quite impressive once they settled into the game and it will be interesting to see how they perform against Didier Drogba and the likes who will have a completely different approach to the game than that of North Korea. Brazil will have much more space to manoeuvre and enforce their style and tempo on the game but will also have a much much larger threat from the African country's attacking force.

North Korea will be proud of their efforts and will head into their clash with Portugal on the 21st June with a lot of swagger, vigour and confidence. With their strong willed performance against the Selecao one may be adventurous enough to back them to pull off an upset against the Selecao das Quinas who are frankly not exuding too much confidence at this moment in time. The Group of Death appears to have taken on a whole new dimension, and though realistically, even the most ardent of North Korean fans will not believe they can qualify, they may still be able to affect the outcome of the group by producing a shock or two.


Brazil - Caesar, Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos, Gilberto, Elano (Alves 73'), Felipe Melo ( 84'), Robinho, Kaka (Nilmar 78'), Luis Fabiano

North Korea - Myong-Guk, Jyong-Huk, Chol-Jin, Jun-II, Kwang-Cho, Yun-Nam, Nam-Chol, In-Guk (Kum-II), Yong-Hak, Tae-Se, Yong-Jo

Brazil 2 - 1 North Korea
Maicon 55'
Elano 72'

Ji Yun Nam 89'

Check out the Points Table

Also Read: Portugal 0 - 0 Ivory Coast (Match Report)

Maicon Photograph Copyright: Reto Stauffer

North Korea Goal Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel

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