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

If North Korea are a football mystery to most of the World – Jong Tae-Se being their most well known player if that is not a contradiction in terms – then perhaps the shroud of secrecy covers both ways and The Great Leader has not permitted coverage of the rest of the World Game.

Perhaps when Cristiano Ronaldo first throws him to the ground they will not know of the Portuguese skipper’s cheating and perhaps they will not be in fear of his reputation either. Perhaps they will treat him like any other winger and – without the fear – unmask the player who having “graced” the English league for a number of years many feel is good but not great and does not perform at the very highest level.

Not that North Korea in the World Cup is anyone’s highest level and Portugal – with an eye on the second round after Brazil’s 3-1 win over Ivory Coast – start the game well with Ricardo Carvalho rising in the box after Ri Myong-Guk flapped haplessly at a cross.

With Brazil joining Holland in the second round and Cameroon already out there is a feeling that the World Cup has now moved into business time. Spain could go out today, France probably will tomorrow, England have a test to stay in the day after and on Saturday half the teams will be out and with about two dozen of the nations stating very openly that not getting out of the groups would be a disaster plenty of fall out to come.

North Korea are not in the shadow of Portugal – why should they be? Neither have won anything despite the Europeans being 102 places ahead in the world rankings – and Ji Yun-Nam’s flip ball between the two defenders gets to Tae-Se but he is not able to get the ball under control before Eduardo smothers the ball.

Portugal’s agenda today is to knock in enough goals so that if they do not get a draw at least with Brazil then they are able to best the Ivory Coast goal difference which stands at minus two. Conceding does not enter into the plan and when Hong Yong-Jo slams a shot across at Eduardo the keeper does well to save although Tae-Se could have done better with the rebound which he heads over. An Yong-Hak tries to skim a shot over the rain sodden service but his shot goes a meter wide.

The Portuguese – in the quest for goals – seem an edge smarter than their neighbours Spain and rather than have possession they start to put in good service to forward Hugo Almeida who often finds a block of Korean defenders. The game is far more open and far more of a contest that third vs one hundred and fifth would ever have suggested.

Portugal make the break through with Raul Meireles exploding from the midfield running from deep left to inside right and slamming the ball home with gusto taking the ball from in by Tiago with a confident touch.

The Koreans continue with the game plan and Cha Jong-Hyok continues to snap every ball away from Ronaldo but in attack the Asian side start to fade from the promising early start and even that defensive steel is bent before half time as Fábio Coentrão combines well with Ronaldo and plays a dangerous low cross which Almeida is unlucky not to be able to convert. Simão goes near later and half time can not come quick enough for the Koreans.

One wonders what Kim Jong-Hun says to his side at half time. A defeat sees his team go out of the World Cup but with such a gap in quality it seems that whenever the put men forward they look like conceding and that does little to help their cause. Perhaps then Jong-Hun must tell his side that the best hope is to stay solid at the back and cross fingers that they can get a chance and take it.

It is slim returns but it worked for New Zealand in the first round of games and perhaps the onus to score goals will play on the minds of the Europeans and they will chase goals and leave space to be picked off. Certainly that seems to be the path Portugal have taken starting the second half with a purpose striking two at goal quickly one from Ronaldo who as he looks to get into the game more is tackled well by An Yong-Hak. Certainly the Koreans know enough about the winger to make sure he does not get to run at them too often.

A free kick by Tae-Se is saved by Eduardo and Almeida is found in the box by Coentrão but Ri Kwang-Chon is in close attendance. The Koreans can do nothing about Simão stealing box the right getting onto the end of a three man move as Meireles flicks to Almeida who chests back for the goalscorer to play into the path of the incoming man who fires low and into the net. Two minutes later Almeida is found in the middle of the box by Coentrão and heads home simply.

Portugal’s performance is the stuff of dreams. Not wild fantasies but the dreams of a France or an England. Dreams of players doing simple things right. Playing short balls to men who want possession and want to use possession. Even Ronaldo seems to have fallen into place with the winger getting down the left flank and centring for Tiago who passes the ball into the net from the edge of the box.

Coentrão surges forward sixty yards playing a one-two with Ronaldo that – when in the box – is flicked just wide of the keeper’s far post. Ronaldo pings one off the bar again his brief eclipse of passing to team mates seemingly having ended. A ball in to the box should be dealt with by Kim Kum-Il but the defender wofts a tired leg at it and only serves to tee it up for substitute Liédson who smashes home from inside the six yard box.

Ronaldo gets his goal after a slopping piece of defending and a rash goalkeeper slide leaves him with an empty goal to slot the ball into. Tiago heads in a seventh when a cross from the left finds him on the penalty spot and he heads in with confidence.

Without wanting to sound too much like Peter Snow The Ivory Coast would need a Brazil win and a nine goal swing from Portugal to qualify.

The Koreans go out but face Ivory Coast and will hope to win back some pride.

Portugal – save a pair of curious results – go on to the final game with Brazil playing for a curious reward. The winner avoids the winner of the group with Spain in who – probably – will not be Spain. At this stage of World Cup football – when 205 have become 32 who have become 16 – there is no need to fear anyone.

Brazil know that. It reminds to be seen if Portugal – who like their skipper Ronaldo – have shown they can turn it on against a weaker side feel the same.

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