James Lawton: Koreans refuse to stand in awe as Dunga's men turn on the style

It doesn't matter how many times they tell you the age of Brazilian fantasy has passed. It doesn't get any easier to believe, at least not deep down.

This is especially so when players as gifted as Kaka and Robinho seem to share the disbelief – and you see the kind of goal that came from a full-back named Maicon last night.

The scepticism of Brazil's principal artists that the beauty had gone appeared so rampant they were apparently intent on producing more pure football in the first 10 minutes than had been seen in the entire tournament.

However, some realities intruded. One was that 105th-world ranked North Korea were not prepared to be either mesmerised or humiliated, at least not at the first sleights of foot. Another was that the Brazilian coach, Dunga, who is seen by many of his compatriots as the nation's No 1 enemy of the beautiful game, was becoming increasingly long-faced with every piece of failed whimsy.

You could see a mind filled with pragmatism most of the time rotating with increasing irritation. The skills were as pretty as you would ever want to see but where was the killing touch that was always part of the armoury of the world's most deadly and rounded player, Pele, or, for that matter, Romario and Bebeto, the striking combination which squeezed out enough goals in 1994 to end Brazil's 24-year failure to claim a fourth World Cup triumph?

Dunga was part of that team which was better at grinding out results than lighting up the sky. He was the dour water carrier who tackled hard and was concerned only with an end product.

It was thus not hard to imagine his frustration as Korean coach Kim Jong-hun packed his defence and then had the exhilaration of seeing his isolated front man Jong Tae-se, who wept with emotion when the national anthems were played, threaten to ambush Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

Kim Jong-hun no doubt simply urged more resilience in a half-time team talk fuelled by the amazing fact that the game remained goalless.

Dunga's ruminations, as usual, were centred on the meaning of the team he helped to win back Brazilian success, if not beauty.

Before this World Cup tournament he went over the old winning ground, saying: "The team I was in had something fundamental. It was a group that taught the country how to win. We went without for 24 years, with exceptional people, but we couldn't take that extra step. My generation did it, showing that work comes first.

"Brazil first has to beat Brazil because always on the eve of the competition – not just with me, it was the same with previous coaches – we get a big row about excluded players – and how we play. But if Julio Baptista came in and did well, if Elano came in and did well, if Ramires came in and did well, if Robinho and Luis Fabiano did well, why do I have to change now?"

Something had to, though, in the biting cold of the Johannesburg night.

The first requirement was the acceptance of the need for considerably more directness which, if good enough for Pele and company, should have been no imposition on Dunga's men. Nor was it, so it proved, for Maicon, the man who did so much to drive Internazionale's Champions League victory.

His astonishingly acute shot in the 55th minute, after being set free by Elano, told us two things in the most dramatic terms. One, Dunga's team can be prodded easily into a harder edge of reality. Two, they can go to that place with at least some of the old artistry. The point was underlined exquisitely 17 minutes later when Robinho – a player this night with whom Manchester City fans cannot have felt totally familiar – further lacerated the Koreans with a ball that found Elano running free and shooting with maximum precision.

Soon after, Kaka, who came here weighed down with the pressure of being considered overpriced in, of all places, Madrid, took his leave of the action with a face shining with such happiness he might already have been holding the World Cup.

In the joyful circumstances it was necessary only to remember that North Korea, for all their gallantry, do occupy the furthest margins of the world's best football, and that Spain are still to announce themselves in this tournament, which had come so beautifully to life.

It was a cautionary thought confirmed swiftly enough when Ji Yun-nam ran through to score and bring the Brazilians – and a large part of the football world – into a much surer sense that there is still a huge amount of football to be played – and that Dunga still has a little bit of work to do.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin