Maicon 55, Elano 72
KOREA DPR 1
Yun-Nam Ji 89
Brazil took almost an hour to open up a stubborn Korea DPR team, but eventually stuttered to a narrow victory. Goals from Maicon and Elano wrapped up the three points in this David vs. Goliath clash, but Brazil were given a late scare when Ji Yun-Nam pulled a goal back with two minutes remaining.
The first half was short on clear goalscoring chances with Brazil largely restricted to speculative efforts from distance. The likes of Elano and Michel Bastos put efforts wide from outside the area and Maicon and Robinho, Brazil’s standout player, could only force saves from tight angles. The North Koreans were packing men behind the ball but were willing to run at Brazil on the counter attack and Jong Tae-Se, Cha Jong-Hyok and Ri Kwang-Chon all had efforts at goal without coming close to scoring.
Maicon finally gave Brazil the lead 10 minutes into the second half and it was a goal that must surely be considered a fluke. Having made a rare overlapping run, Maicon hit a fierce drive from the tightest of angles that caught Ri Myong-Guk three yards off his line and flew behind him into the net. If Maicon meant to shoot it was an extraordinary piece of finishing, but it was surely a mishit cutback. Minutes later, Luis Fabiano should have done much better when he blasted a left foot shot over from 12 yards.
Brazil doubled the advantage after 71 minutes with a goal that was certainly meant. Robinho played a beautiful through ball that dissected the stubborn North Korean defence allowing Elano to stroll through in the inside-right channel and side foot first time inside the far post. Ji Yun-Nam grabbed an unlikely consolation after 88 minutes, bursting into the box from Jong Tae-Se’s pass before smashing the ball past the previously untroubled Julio Cesar in the Brazil goal.
First things first, Korea DPR deserve every plaudit that comes their way for holding Brazil to a goalless scoreline for 55 minutes. They were superbly organised and surprisingly willing to commit three or four bodies to run at the Brazilian defence. Every team that reaches the World Cup should be respected to a certain extent by their opponents, no matter the class gap. Due respect aside, there is something seriously wrong when a lowly ranked side of players who have never played at this level can tactically bully the supposed best side in the world. The onus was on Brazil, and Brazil only, to take the initiative and outplay their inferior opponents and yet they set their team up as if they were playing against their equals.
Coach Dunga fielded four defenders, two holding midfielders and a rather conservative attacking midfielder in Elano. With The North Koreans always likely to pack bodies behind the ball, and then only attack with three or four – admittedly willing – runners, why did Brazil need to play quite so many defensive minded players? Jong Tae-se was refreshingly energetic leading the Korean line but he was up against players of the class of Lucio and Juan. Brazil should have been backing their defensive abilities and going one for one at the back and not worrying so much about a few opponents punching well above their weight. The only Brazilian player to show any spark in the first half was Robinho, the one player possessing the fancy footwork that the sheltered Korean players will rarely have come up against before. Kaka looked horribly out of sorts, struggling from a lack of game time and fitness having not played 90 minutes for Real Madrid since February.
It was sad to look at the squad list and struggle to pick out any names that could come on and change things with the kind of magic possessed by Robinho. With Ronaldinho left at home and a raft of unflashy midfielders on the bench instead of a couple of wild cards, one had to wonder what Dunga’s plan B was to deal with a team who packed bodies through the middle. Brazil like to play through the centre but the only space was to be found out wide and Brazil were struggling to exploit it. This looks like a team very comfortable at keeping the ball but desperately lacking in the creativity that would be expected of Brazil and lacking in any real width. Maicon’s opening goal came on one of the few occasions he had got forward with both full-backs having been far too conservative.
That Brazil eventually got their win is a moot point. The 2-1 scoreline hardly sends out a statement to their Group G opponents Ivory Coast and Portugal, or their potential rivals for the World Cup trophy. Korea DPR played the game of their lives but they were afforded too much respect by Brazil for whom only Robinho can come away with any satisfaction at his performance. It will be interesting to see how the North Koreans fare in their remaining games, with both the Portuguese and the Ivorians looking bereft of creativity in their meeting earlier on Tuesday. Their late goal will be a massive fillip to go with the confidence they will take from their overall performance and they are clearly scared of no one.
Brazil – Julio Cesar – Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos – Felipe Melo (Ramires 84), Elano (Daniel 73), Silva, Kaka (Nilmar 78) – Luis Fabiano, Robinho
Korea DPR – Myong-Guk Ri – Jong-Hyok Cha, Jun-Il Ri, Kwang-Chon Ri, Chol-Jin Pak – Nam-C Pak, Yun-Nam Ji, In-Guk Mun (K-I Kim 80), Yong-Hak Ahn – Tae-Se Jong, Yong-Jo Hong