North Korea gets the game underway in an all red kit. Brazil is in yellow shirts and blue shorts. Apparently, this is the coldest World Cup game ever.
Brazil-North Korea instant analysis
North Korea gets the game underway in an all red kit. Brazil is in yellow shirts and blue shorts. Apparently, this is the coldest World Cup game ever.
Brazil starts promisingly, Robinho making light work of a run down the left to give it to Kaka, who's seen off the ball in the area. Robinho's done more to impress me in two minutes than he did in his entire Manchester City career.
"I see a 2-0 Brazil victory," says Altruistik. "The pundits are sure to blame Dunga for lack of flair." So far Brazil doesn't look too shy of turning it on, but neither is it in too much of a rush to do some damage,
North Korea is struggling to hold onto the ball for more than a few passes, but when Brazil looks to go forward, it's generally outnumbered by two or three defenders. Robinho just found a way through the middle, but can't find the target from the edge of the area.
"The emotional NK striker during his national anthem was moving," says Caleb Shoenhard, from Washington D.C. It was Jong Tae Se, apparently. "That's probably the most beautiful thing that guy's ever seen/experienced. I love the anthems." It was a wonderful moment - one of the only I've seen in the past few days to make me think about how fantastic the World Cup is as a concept.
Jong Tae Se has the first North Korean shot, working his way past the half-hearted attentions of several Brazilians and striking it from a fair old angle on the right. Comfortable save for Cesar, but it's a sighter.
"My guess is negative DPR side will keep it close," reckons Pleming. There's no doubt they'll defend for their lives, but the front players seem willing to look for chances when they're in a reasonable position to do so. Hong and Jong aren't afraid to try and get down the right.
Brazil has had to do without the ball for the last couple of minutes, and Cha fancies his chances when he looks up and finds himself on the edge of the area. His shot curls up and away from the goal, but still, this is encouraging.
The stats bar says Brazil has had 60% of the ball so far, but it doesn't feel too lopsided - maybe because the North Koreans drive forward with some urgency, whereas Brazil is forced to prod and poke at a crowded defense, waiting for a gap to open up. So far it hasn't, really.
Robinho speeds into the box and shoots on the turn, but Ri collects it comfortably.
"Why is everyone certain that N Korea is going to be the worst team in the Cup?" asks Mark Schmidt. "If I recall correctly, they finished ahead of a few teams in the AFC qualifiers?" I suspect it's because we're all largely ignorant of the best of them, but also because what we do know is that they're defensive, eeking out a 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia (I think) to qualify. If they were in a weaker group than this, attitudes might be different.
With just over a quarter of the game played, I can say with some confidence that this isn't the worst game we've seen so far in this tournament. It's quite an interesting little set-to, even if it's not been non-stop goalmouth action. "This is how I would liven up first round matches," begins Brandmelband, "3pts for a win, 1pt for a tie. All teams lose a point for failing to score". I think I prefer public floggings for negative coaches, but each to their own. North Korea ease off a bit of pressure by breaking forward, by the way, but Jong's cross is wild.
Maicon can't be bothered to try and direct a cross to one of the yellow shirts among all the red ones, so has a crack from distance. It's off target, but earns a corner from the worried keeper anyway. North Korea inevitably brings everybody back.
"Give Brazil time, NK will be broken down eventually!" insists Ryan Mckinnon-McGuire. "I'm predicting a 4 -0 win, and hoping for it, what a boring competition so far!" Public floggings, it's the way forward, Fifa. Brazil is still on the ball, but still struggling to play the ball through a very crowded defense.
I can confirm that An Yong Hak has just dummied Bastos. A nice moment, and he tees up Ri, whose shot put-put-puts wide.
Bastos shot deflected off Pak's head and just over the bar... referee gives a goal-kick. Fine officiating.
Loving your ideas for livening up the first round. "Everyone plays first round matches without goal keepers," suggests Thomas Ahn, although in fairness, England did try that. "If that fails to turn up goals in the first half, then play the second halves in traditional historical garb. Liven up the game through pageantry if not actual action."
I can't believe we're minutes away from half-time and it's still 0-0. Every time you think Brazil is finally going to jink its way through, more red shirts appear.
Let me rephrase that: I can believe it, I just don't want to. I suppose there's always Spain, tomorrow.
Thought it was going to happen then - great cutback from Kaka, but Ri Jun Il is everywhere at the back.
"Thanks for doing this from all the unfortunate people out there who have to work for a living while the Cup is going on," says Christine Swanson. "Don't know what I'll do on Friday when USA plays Slovenia, call in sick maybe?" Fear ye not, Christine, I shall be here, tapping away on my keyboard.
Robinho and Lucio get in each other's way on the edge of the area - I didn't know Brazilians could even do that.
Michel Bastos is showing my kind of impatience on the edge of the box, muscling past two defenders and sending the ball into the middle. But that's the half, and we've still not seen a goal.
At this point I really should print Dan Brennan's match prediction, in case he's right and has to settle any arguments. "2-0," he says. "Both goals in the second half. Kaka and Nilmar. I thank you."
"There's been a lot of talk about players taking speculative -and bad- shots from 30 meters out," writes Jimmy Perez, in Austin. "It's definitely possible to score from that range, but everyone is missing badly. Is anyone blaming the new ball on these misses, or is it just abysmal shooting?" Everyone's blaming the new ball. For everything. Fathers of newborn children that look nothing like them are blaming the Jabulani, rather than the gardener. But Argentina managed to put plenty of efforts on target, and Ronaldo wasn't far off with a long-range strike earlier today. Perhaps you just have to be quite good at soccer to play with this ball. Silly to use it at the World Cup, really.
I absolutely did not miss Brazil kicking off the second half because I forgot to go to the toilet earlier in half time. That is not what happened at all.
For the first time in the match, Luis Fabiano steals a few yards on the backline, and Miacon's hooked ball forwards reaches him, but bounces off his back and into North Korean possession.
This could be the breakthrough: Kaka wins a free-kick right in the edge of the D...
A bright, reasonably high-tempo start to the second half by Brazil, who look like they might have been barked at a wee bit in the break, but North Korea are holding up.
Michel Bastos takes, and it's hit with some feeling, but spins wide. At least it wasn't several meters over the bar, eh?
More pressure by Brazil, Robinho sends one in from the right and watches it fizz a couple of yards wide with a cross look on his face. This is a good start to the second half.
North Korea just had a corner, and even though Jong was fairly comfortably beaten to the header, it seemed appropriate to gasp and say 'Ooh'.
Goal - Maicon- Brazil (1-0)
GOAL! Brazil 1-0! I think Maicon actually just defied the laws of space and time to put the ball into the net from the acutest of angles!
The commentators here thought the keeper had diverted it into his own net, that's how ridiculous the angle was. But it had the most unbelievable swerve on it, genuinely jaw-dropping.
"Make goals 2 ft higher, 4 ft wider," says the brilliantly named Plemin Gillette. "Shrink box to 15 yds. Award Blue cards like in indoor soccer where for cynical fouls, you must stand off pitch for 2 mins." The goal could've been six inches wide and six inches tall and Maicon's shot would have found it. Do you use the word gob-smacked in the US?
The replays of Maicon's goal are tinged with sadness when they show Ri Myong Guk's face as the ball swooshes past him and into the goal. He looks heartbroken. But most keepers would have been beaten by that. Rob Green would've ended up in the net with it, gawping like a fish.
"That was clearly a mishit cross that he shanked into the back of the net," snorts eocine, whom I'm imagining standing hands on hips. And wearing a cravat, but that's my business. "If Maicon were Azeri there'd be no doubt." It's true he looked as shocked by it as the rest of us. But let's enjoy it, eh?
Gah! Brazil are stretching the North Korean defense to better effect now but Fabiano blasts his shot from about 12 yards when a more controlled approach would have done.
Brazil is playing the ball around comfortably, but its nostrils are twitching for a second goal, methinks. "I think I remember an early attempt at professional soccer in the USA where they gave a standings point for each for the first few goals a team scored in each game - perhaps as many as the first three," recalls an anonymous reader. "They were afraid unsophisticated customers would be bored by a lot of 0-0 matches." Indeed. Stuff sophistication, it's for literature and coffee. We want goals!
Goal - Elano (2-0 Brazil)
GOAL! Brazil 2-0 thanks to Elano, who strokes in a through ball from Robinho with aplomb.
Right, that's the Brazil we paid our pocket money for. More please. Elano's being subbed for Dani Alves.
"Gob-smacked?" repeats Shane Kuester. "Sorry, I don't know that one. What is it?" It means shocked, and speechless. It's not the kind of word Prime Ministers and poets use, but it does the job. Robinho's been Brazil's best player tonight, but he could well be subbed off before he gets the goal he deserves.
"No way was that unintentional," shouts Hadi Sedigh. "He looked up at the keeper, and hit it basically with his toes. Not how you cross."
Out: Kaka , In: Nilmar
"When the Rochester Rhinos were formed and joined the A-League in 1996, I'm pretty sure the standing rules were 2 pts for a win, 3 points for a win by 2 goals or more," says Mark Schmidt. "That might change things." Robinho's definitely up for getting his name on the scoresheet, but his shot dips wide.
Nilmar strikes from about 22.475 yards, but it's straight at Ri, who fumbles but collects the ball at the second time of asking.
Out: Mun In Guk , In: Kim Kum Il
Mun In Guk comes off for Kim Kum Il
Lucio wants in on the goals, but faced down by two red shirts, he dinks the ball feebly to the keeper. Melo off, Ramires on.
Nilmar plucks the ball out of the air with his toe and turns to shoot, but once again it's straight at Ri. I don't want North Korea to be destroyed, but I do fancy another goal - ooh, Jong nearly got round Juan then! Superb saving tackle.
Fabiano called offside receiving a nice neat ball from Ramires, who then gets booked for a hack at Cha.
Goal - Ji Yun Nam North Korea (2-1)
GOAL! North Korea gets one back!
Ji Yun Nam has just scored the goal of his life: An nodded down a freekick and he let fly from the corner of the six yard box.
Dunga is not a happy man, but there can't be many people watching worldwide who didn't enjoy seeing the Koreans get a goal, and a good one at that. Two minutes added time to play.
The final whistle blows and Brazil start with three points. It's hard to give credit to North Korea without sounding horribly patronising, but they really did play their part in the most interesting game of the day.
Brazil took a while to make the difference in quality tell against North Korea, but once the deadlock was broken, it looked pretty comfortable. Not the double-figures shellacking that many predicted, but the Koreans were never going to be that porous. It took a shot of unthinkable audacity to breach the defense the first time, and the impact on the attitude of both teams was visible: North Korea shrank into themselves (resolute but heartbroken) and Brazil strode about the place like five-times World Champions. The late goal from Ji Yun Nam won’t help his team up the table, but it was just reward for the way they conducted themselves for most of the game; North Korea played the ball calmly out of defense when other -- "better" -- teams would have resorted to hoof and hope against a team like Brazil.
Editor's note: Refresh for updates.
Anthems analysis: The Brazilian number has a distinctly 1970s British sitcom incidental music ring to it, but everyone sings along with good heart, apart from Robinho. The North Korean anthem is spoiled by lots of vuvuzelas starting up, but it seemed to be pretty presidential in tone. One of the players was brought to tears, which was rather touching.
OK, so I've been reading up on this soccer business, and from what I can make out, Brazil is quite good at it. It's even won this tournament a few times, it says here. In fact, it hasn't lost an opening match at the World Cup since 1934. Coach Dunga's been criticized no end for playing a more pragmatic brand of Brazilian football than spectators are accustomed to, but it's a winning brand and that's all that really counts.
And how do North Korea's chances look? Well, on the plus side, it's never failed to reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup. It's just that North Korea has only qualified once before, in 1966. Whether it can pull off that kind of shock again remains to be seen, since most of us haven't had the chance to see it in action. Fortunately, (South) Korean reader Young Lee has emailed to fill us all in on the least well-known side at the tournament:
"They run like their lives depend on it, to compensate for their lack of skills. They're a shorter, better defending Greece with genuine counter-attacking threat. And they are honest. Unlike our players, they haven't learned the fine art of fouling w/o picking up cards, earning fouls and diving. They don't throw elbows and don't waste time. In fact, they are much like the South Korea team from Mexico '86 and Italia '90." So, there you go then. The bookies might be touting odds on Brazil scoring at least five, but we shouldn't be surprised if Kim Jong Hun's team make it as difficult as possible.
Anyhow, the teams are in, and there's no real surprise from either coach:
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Miacon, Juan, Lucio, Michel Bastos; Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo; Elano, Kaka, Robinho; Luis Fabiano.
North Korea (5-4-1): Ri Myong Guk; Cha Jong Hyok, Pak Chol Jin, Ri Jun Il, Pak Nam Chol, Ro Kwang Chon; Mun In Guk, Hong Yong Jo, An Yong Hak, Ji Yun Nam; Jong Tae Se.
Rather than cause a diplomatic incident by getting these names wrong, I may resort to shirt numbers if things get frantic.
Brazil is strong favorite to top Group G, while North Korea could well go home without a point. But the Koreanswill be neat and tidy and defend 4-6-0 if they have to, which will hopefully push the Brazilians to be at their most exciting and inventive. Of the 'big' teams to have played so far, only Germany has turned on those of us looking to be entertained, so it's about time we got a game worth a DVD. Or at least a Youtube reel.
The match kicks off at 2.30 p.m. ET, so I'll be online from 2.15 p.m. with team news, vuvuzela complaints, live analysis, witty asides (alright, asides) and your emails -- get them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.