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Plucky North Koreans give Samba Boys the jitters

sports Updated: Jun 17, 2010 02:38 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

Efficient is a moniker Dunga wouldn’t mind. To this Brazil coach what is important is that they are up and away with a win. Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory against North Korea also means Dunga can seek succour in history. In 1994 and 2002 when they were champions, Brazil won their opening match by a goal.

Dunga put down the quiet start to first-match anxiety. “Everybody focuses on getting off to a good start. Germany could do that because they got an early goal and took off from there. We didn’t have a very good first half,” he said, after going top in Group G.

That was because North Korea, surprising for a team back at the World Cup after 44 years and without a win in their last eight games, stayed calm. The midfield and the back-four stayed close with Park N.C. and An Y.H playing in front of the defence where Ri J. Il’s anticipation denied Kaka, Robinho and Luis Fabiano. It didn’t matter that North Korea didn’t have much possession. What did was the clean slate they kept at half-time.

In Pretoria on Wednesday, Diego Maradona said North Korea didn’t really worry Brazil and termed their show as “too calm, too uneventful” but the teams shared first corner-kicks within three minutes and North Korea nearly did better. This was after Cha Jong Hyok drove wide after breaking well and the tall Jong Tae Se making Juan lose his balance with smart footwork. Crying during the national anthem, Jong showed he had both the heart and the head to play football at this level.

In a bid to break the defensive gridlock, Dunga said he introduced Dani Alves in the middle, hoping the Barcelona side-back’s ability with long-rangers would unhinge North Korea.

That they were but through another defender, Maicon, whose screamer at the near post was reminiscent of Marco van Basten’s effort in the 1988 European Championship final. Robinho had a good game, dropping back into a midfield role after Kaka left. It was off his super pass that Elano scored. “I remember how you asked me why Robinho was in the team when he slumped at Manchester City. Now you know why,” Dunga said.

But fittingly for team whose defensive abilities seem more solid given that Kaka’s recovering and Robinho’s fallen off the Premiership, it was Maicon, Michel Bastos, Gilberto Silva, Juan and Felipe Mello who got Brazil to a winning start. “I am proud of my players but Brazil were just too strong in the second half. This is a great experience. It gives us the confidence to win our remaining games,” N. Korea coach Kim Jong Hun deadpanned.