Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Brazil v North Korea

Brazil 2 North Korea 1
Maicon 55 Ji Yun-Nam 89
Elano 72

If New Zealand warmed the cockles of our jaded hearts to room temperature, they're now as hot as roasting chestnuts on an open fire.

The tears of joy started before kickoff. Quite literally, in this case. As the camera panned across the players singing the national anthem Jong Tae-Se, their talismanic striker, could be seen singing along with the tears rolling down his face. At first I thought they were I must be seen to be moved by all the Dear Leader's favourite policemen tears, but it turns out Jong grew up in Japan, plays for Kawasaki Frontale and has rather less need of that kind of thing than the rest of the team. Which means they were probably look mum, I'm in the World Cup tears, and it's safe to say aw.

Brazil had been there before, and instead of crying about it they got on with besieging the North Korean goal. Robinho had two runs in the first ten minutes. First his pass to Kaka was just too hard, then his shot went wide, but we still saw enough to annoy Man City fans everywhere. He never did any of that for them.

Not that the Koreans were overawed. They had a few efforts of their own, including one attempt by Cha from about 70 yards. Not even Brazilian keepers get that far out of position, and Cesar held onto it comfortably.

And their defense was comfortable. I'll say that again. North Korea, defending against Brazil, were comfortable. They went in at half time without having conceded a goal, and without having looked like conceding one.

It was the same story for the first ten minutes of the second half, but then Brazil got their break. Maicon chased after a ball that was going out, caught up with it a yard before it crossed the line and hit it. Instead of coming back across the box, it went between the keeper and the near post, swerving as it went, and in.

He probably couldn't do it again if he tried all day. Chris Coleman, commentating, said you might blame the keeper for not guarding the near post better, but I thought that was a little harsh. Some commentators have tried to make out it was a deliberate shot, but I couldn't see how it could have been. It was just one of those freak moments that turn a game.

They meant the next one though. Robinho played the kind of pass you'd expect from a Brazilian wonder boy, stepping up to get the angle just right then hitting it just out of the reach of about five different defenders, with exactly the right weight for the charging Elano to hit it without breaking stride. He'd timed his run to perfection, and hit it first time precisely into the corner.

Two amazing goals. The first goal, you couldn't believe it was on purpose. The second, you knew it was on purpose but you still couldn't believe it. We've been waiting for a moment like that, the kind of moment you know you'll still be seeing when World Cup clip shows are beamed directly into the imaging implants in your retinas from satellites orbiting the ice moon you live on, and now we've had one.

Again, what was thrilling for us must have been infuriating for Man City fans. They'd just watched two players who were rubbish for them combine to score a better goal than they'd ever seen.

Two didn't seem enough for Kaka, Robinho, Nilmar and Melo, they all had shots. If I was a North Korean footballer, it would have got me down.

But blow me if they didn't go and pull one back. Five minutes to go, and Ji Yun-Nam got onto a header from Kin Jong-Sun, ran into the box and just leathered it past Cesar. Two one.

And they had two more shots after that. At the final whistle they all looked really disappointed. We lost, to Brazil. We're not disappointed, and we give them a better chance against Portugal and the Ivory Coast than we'd ever thought possible.

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