Elano shows Brazil can still rely on flair in game of exquisite goals

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Brazil 2 North Korea 1

With the world looking to them to improve both the entertainment value and the goals ratio of this hitherto disappointing tournament, Brazil eventually managed to achieve both requirements yesterday. On a bitterly cold Johannesburg night, reminding us that this is, after all, a winter World Cup, they took the best part of an hour to break through a red wall that might have been erected to protect the North Korean border itself, then infiltrated with two touches of the flair that some feared had been lost from their game.

Internazionale's right-back Maicon scored from a ridiculous angle and, with just under 20 minutes to play, Elano converted a fine pass from Robinho, who played throughout like the player Manchester City hoped they were signing. The first points of the competition for the world's No 1-ranked side were therefore secured, though North Korea, as old-fashioned and defensive football-wise as politically, produced an unexpected late shock with a goal from Ji Yun-nam.

The scoreline was therefore considerably closer, the Brazilian margins thinner, than would have been expected against a team ranked 104 places below them.

Their coach Dunga, the man accused of placing pragmatism above the beautiful game, seemed happy enough just to take the win and, with it, the lead in Group G. "The start is the most difficult match," he said. "The anxiety builds up. I'm satisfied with the win but I want us to score more goals."

Even in an age of instant information, the air of mystery attached to the North Koreans is as intriguing as it was when their predecessors were giving remarkable performances in England 44 years ago. For Pak Doo-ik, the hero of victory over Italy at Ayresome Park, read Jong Tae-se, a lively centre-forward, and now Ji, who will be able to tell his grandchildren he scored a goal against Brazil at the World Cup.

The sense of mystery deepened with four of their squad being listed on the team sheet last night as "absent", one of them being the striker Kim Myong-won, whom they had apparently tried to sneak in as an extra forward by describing him as the third goalkeeper. Fifa, wise to the trick, has ruled that he can therefore play only in goal, which is an unlikely eventuality. They also introduced the competition to a new formation, effectively 5-3-1-1; a disciplined back line, although the right-back Cha Jong-hyok was allowed to break down his flank occasionally, with three more men in front, leaving Jong as the one striker, with the captain Hong Yong-jo just behind him. It was not difficult to see how they had come through their qualifying group by scoring four goals in six games and conceding none at all.

A small knot of perhaps 100 Korean fans enthusiastically waved their flags and sang the national anthem (as did every team member, at least one of whom was in tears) and sat back to await the onslaught. It was not long in coming, with five attempts on Ri Myong-guk's goal in the first 20 minutes, yet the keeper held or pushed away everything hit at him, including shots from distance by both full-backs, Maicon and Michel Bastos.

Robinho was the most inventive of the Brazilians, switching from left to right and back, while demonstrating a range of feints and stepovers to make Cristiano Ronaldo jealous. Yet the red shirts massed in the penalty area, making it difficult to play through them, and defended surprisingly well at set pieces, for all their apparent physical inferiority; the goalkeeper was actually the tallest player on either side.

Gilberto Silva and the adventurous full-backs had to take care not to leave too much space behind them. On the ball the Koreans were quick and neat, and Jong ran hard and long, even if his promise to score a goal in every World Cup game was on the rash side.

It needed an exquisite Brazilian moment to warm their followers and lift the game to another level. Elano took a crossfield pass and played it outside for the rampaging Maicon, who took the ball to within a yard of the byline and then used the outside of his foot to bend it from that apparently impossible angle inside the near post. Had Ri stayed on his line, the shot could not have beaten him, but he had every right to expect a cross.

After the disappointing Fabiano shot wastefully, Elano showed his misfiring striker the way. Taking Robinho's measured pass inside the widest defender Ji, he gave Ri as little chance as he had with the first goal. It was just as well; in the last five minutes Juan had to produce a saving tackle on Jong and then Ji went past Lucio to shoot into the corner.

Brazil (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Juan, Bastos; Gilberto Silva, Melo (Ramires, 84); Elano (Daniel, 73), Kaka (Nilmar, 78), Robinho; Fabiano.

North Korea (5-3-1-1): Ri Myong-guk; Cha Jong-hyok, Pak Choi-jin, Ri Jun-il, Ri Kwang-chon, Ji Yun-nam; Mun In-guk (Kim Kum-iI, 80), An Yong-hak, Pak Nam-chol; Hong Yong-jo; Jong Tae-se.

Referee V Kassai (Hungary).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower