BfB Goes To The World Cup 2010 (Without leaving the front room)

North Korean players cry during the national anthem. Jong Tae-Se’s eyes were floods of tears when the music played. They are 103rd in the World Rankings, the country is the most alien to the rest of the world and they are up against the best team in the World but – make no mistake – they mean it.

Brazil are the first team in forty four years to play North Korea at the World Cup the last win being Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough and a 1-0 win over Italy that is the stuff of legend there and in that corner of England.

Much has changed in the game little of that is reflected around Pongyeng. Indeed the word from North Korea is that they have players who are capable of matching any in the world skill-wise and maybe, just maybe, they could do something in South Africa.

That is put down to being “propaganda” although the other thirty-one teams – including the United States of America – said the same.

Brazil start energetically with Robinho looking confident and dangerous following his half season loan in his native land. He tries to field Kaká in the box but the North Koreans gather bodies around the skilful playmaker and snuff out the chance. Brazil have the possession but the longer the game goes without a goal the more the unfancied side grow in stature.

The five man back line of the Asians find it hard to cope with the running of Robinho soon the men in yellow are pressing Luis Fabiano, Kaká and Elano against the defence. Ri Jun-Il starts to emerge as a lynch pin and there is a practised resilience to the side which Brazil are more than used to facing but are having problems breaking down.

Mun In-Guk and Ahn Young-Hak’s two man effort in central midfield is a job of standing between Brazil’s fast passing and it a job they are doing well with a nimble intercepting and tight closing down. It is force of numbers and such an approach has been used by many a nation in this World Cup but the outrageous proposition that for New Zealand read North Korean and for Slovakia read Brazil is too interesting to not almost wish for.

Brazil manager Dunga came into the tournament without the likes of Ronaldinho and Adriano with his national media having its worst nightmares – a Brazil without flair incapable of unlocking a side that work hard as North Korea have – realised. Dunga though is a man who has practised his principals having seen some of the best Brazilian sides ever put on a field beaten by the effective Europeans.

North Korea though – a team who play for reasons we can hardly understand but have little to do with the £200,000 a week Kaká picks up – have put up a sterling resistance and are good for a goalless score at half time.

The second half starts with Pak Chol-Jin bringing down Kaká in a dangerous position and there seems a common assumption that the free kick will break the resilience which holds firm under pressure until right back Maicon hits a shot from the two yards off the touchline bending it between keeper and post. It is a sensational goal and the relief on the full back’s face as he sinks to his knees is obvious.

The game hardly changes after the goal with Brazil not chasing more with greater vigour than the one they needed to take the lead and the Koreans staying resolute knowing that without a further concession they would not only have a better scoreline than many would have expected but they are also in with a chance of an equaliser. Experience tells us the a Brazilian team which does not afford at least one chance in a game is a rare thing indeed.

Nevertheless Robinho feeds Elano with a delicate pass over thirty yards diagonally across the defence and the game is all but over as a contest with the memory of North Korea holding the ranked best team in the World fading. Brazil take pot shots for the rest of the evening but when Ji Yun-Nam picks up the ball outside the box he surges in and slams the ball past Júlio César. A minute later the tireless Tae-Se gets a half chance that he giddily puts into the stands behind the goal, a minute later he puts a similar chance wide.

It is a defeat but one which it would not be hard for anyone to spin as a good result let alone the the propagandists in Pongyeng while Brazil start with a victory but one which does little to press their claims to be considered favourites for the competition.

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