If someone were to predict Brazil would be sweating out their match against North Korea until the closing minute of stoppage time, you probably would have refered that person to the nearest asylum. But after a hard-nosed defensive performance from the Koreans, Dunga and his boys were battling until the final minute to open their World Cup with a 2-1 victory.
Like the majority of the teams to play thus far in the Cup, North Korea came out with a defensive minset, but it was warranted for Kim Jong-Hun’s side. While they sit at a cavernous low 105th in the FIFA World Rankings (lowest in the tournament), Brazil of course sits as king at No. 1.
But despite taking a defensive stance on the game, the North Koreans played a first half with a level of confidence that straddled the line of arrogance. The remained stalwart in the back, holding the tournament favorites to few chances, most of which were from outside the box. And on the offensive, they showed great confidence taking on Brazilian defenders one on one. North Korea’s No. 9 J. Tae Se looked to take on Lucio each time he received the ball, and the two’s head-to-head contest was a show within the show.
However, the large gap between North Korea’s back line and midfield and its forwards usually left them with limited options on the counter and thus not too many dangerous moments.
In the second half, Brazil’s Maicon opened scoring in the 55th with what looked to be a lucky strike off an intentional cross. Elano was played through on a brilliant ball from Robinho in the 77th before coolly one-touching it into the corner.
But before Brazil could comfortably finish the game, the Korean’s struck in the 89th when J. Yon Nam received a perfectly weighted header from the left side and took it down in stride into the box and past a couple Brazilians before finishing past Julio Cesar.
It’d be inaccurate to say Brazil “escaped” with points because they were never really threatened, but they were certainly troubled. They’ll have to play at the level expected of a five-time world champion country if they want to win their next two games against stronger opponents. As far as the Koreans, they have to be proud of their performance. They played with tenacity, confidence and at many times left spectators thinking to themselves, “Could they actually do this?!”
It was nice to see an entertaining game in Group G after the morning’s disappointment, and a little surprise from both Korea and Brazil could potentially set the Group of Death on fire.