At the end, there was never any doubt about the final result at the freezing Ellis Park stadium on Tuesday. Brazil is such a properly dominant bunch of talented players that many a stronger team will wilt in presence of their greatness. But the North Korean players left the ground with their heads held high, even as Brazil won 2:1.
For ages, the totalitarian regimes loved their sports. Even in difficult times, many resources were directed towards the sportspeople of Eastern Germany, the USSR and Romania, in order for them to return the investment by dominating their disciplines and therefore somehow proving that their ruling regimes were somehow superior to the plain old and boring democratic states. When their results weren’t to the leaders’ satisfaction, however… Even in 1930s, Italian leader Mussolini told the national team captain Giuseppe Meazza and his team mates that he would shoot them all if they didn’t win the finals against Czechoslovakia.
North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, accordingly, is loathe to waste his money on sports teams that do not perform. But even he, crazy as the reports say he is, would not dare threat his players with injury should they lose against the Brazilians. Even he understands that losing against the most wonderful soccer-playing nation is okay, as long as you do your best.
The fact is, the North Korean soccer team didn’t disappoint against Brazil. Quite the opposite: they gained many admirers who, like this reporter, liked their commitment and their exemplary sportsmanship.
Photo: Brazil’s Lucio (3) fights for the ball with North Korea’s Jong Tae-se during a 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius
The North Koreans made Brazil work hard for their first 2010 World Cup win and 66th overall. It took 55 minutes of hard, albeit beautiful, work and the moment of individual brilliance by Maicon. He found the net from the most acute of angles, catching the goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk in a damn-if-you-do-damn-if-you-don’t situation. It took another peak of footballing skill, a pin-point pass by Robinho that knocked out the entire North Korean defence and enabled Elano to score in a most clinical fashion, for Brazil to claim their second goal.
And yet, North Koreans were not ready to do what any other reasonable footballing nation would do, which is lie down and die. Li Yun-Num still managed to score in the 88th minute, despite the Brazilian keeper being the great Cezar.
Make no mistake, Brazil won fairly and squarely and will continue to do so in later matches. They are simply brilliant team that thinks only about attack and blessed they should be for that attitude. But should North Korea repeat their form, Ivory Coast, and especially Portugal, are in for a tough, tough time.
Here are this reporter’s notes:
Korea DPR: Ri Myong-Guk, Ri Kwang-Chon, Cha Jong-Hyok, Pak Chol-Jin, Ri Jun-Il, Ji Yun-Nam, Mun In-Guk, An Yong-Hak, Pak Nam-Chol, Hong Yong-Jo, Jong Tae-Se.
Brazil: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Michel Bastos, Felipe Melo, Gilberto Silva, Elano, Kaka, Robinho, Luis Fabiano.
Man of the match
The first 10 minutes is spent in the two sides getting their feet onto the ground. Brazil is steady, and confident, almost lazy in their approach – their chances are likely to come soon and they do not appear to in a helluva rush. They still manage to display couple of shows of personal brilliance.
- 13th minute: First Brazilian shot on Korean goal, but the ball barely reached their goalkeeper,
- 21st minute: First proper shot by the Brazilians that troubled the Korean keeper, but Robinho’s shot was confidently kept.
- 27th minute: Maicon produces a first good shot
Photo: Brazil’s coach Dunga yells during during a 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match against North Korea at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
- 31st minute: First Korean corner and shot on Brazilian goal. The Koreans are not ready to throw this game away.
- 35th minute: Robinho’s excellent shot is deflected from a Korean defender’s head.
The Korean defence is very solid and surefooted. They do not panic and they are not terribly impressed by the fact that they are attempting to stop the world’s most awesome attacking force. They keep their formation even under the high pressure that individual Brazilian examples of brilliance regularly provide.
- 51st minute: Robinho misses a free kick from a promising position, by a country mile
- 53rd minute: Robinho’s shot flies well short of the post… Jabulani again?
Photo: Brazil’s Maicon (R) scores past North Korea’s goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk during a 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
- 55th minute: Maicon scores! From an extremely acute angle, he fools the keeper who thought Maicon would cross. It took a moment of shear brilliance to breach the tough Korean defences. Amazing goal.
- 63rd minute: Louis Fabiano misses the wide open goal after a great counter move by Brazil.
Photo: Brazil’s Elano (R) shoots to score a goal past North Korea’s goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk during the 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match against North Korea at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
- 71st minute: Brazil scores as Elano gets to see the Korean keeper eye-to-eye, after Robinho’s inch-perfect shot sliced the Korean defence in two. Another moment of brilliance. Sheer brilliance.
- 88th minute: North Korean attacker Li Yun-Num scores! He drilled his way through Brazil’s leaking defence wall and buried the ball behind Cezar. Stunning goal!
- 93rd minute: The end.
Tonight’s game is the proof that no bad teams can qualify for the World Cup any more. Group G feels wide-open now.
By Branko Brkic
Photo: North Korea’s Ji Yun-nam shoots to score a goal past Brazil’s goalkeeper Julio Cesar during their 2010 World Cup Group G soccer match at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg June 15, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius