Brazil, who has won the World Cup in every continent they have been played in, started their campaign against lowly Korean Republic, with the prospect of conquering the continent of Africa. The enormity of the task brought tears in the eyes of Jong Tae Se, the Korean striker, when their national anthem was played just before the match.
The Canarinhos started in customary fashion with Robinho showing clear intent at making amends for his dismal spell at Manchester City. His burst in the first minute gave Kaka a chance to pull the trigger, but the charismatic Madrid playmaker squandered the chance. Both, Elano and Robinho, got their chances to give Brazil the lead in the initial stages of the match, but their efforts went well wide. Meanwhile, Korean frontman Tae Se made a dash into the right side of the Brazilian penalty box, but shot straight into the hands of Julio Cesar.
In the twelfth minute, Elano neatly laid the ball for Maicon whose blast rebounded back to Elano, but the City winger failed to score with a weak shot. Four minutes later, Jong made a run from the right wing and sent in a fancy stinger with his left foot, well wide of Caesar.
On the twenty minute mark, Fabiano sent a through ball to Robinho into the Korean box, but the stylish winger could only come up with a tame effort straight to the opposition keeper. A few minutes later, Maicon sent a scorcher from distance but the keeper parried it away for a corner.
The Korean resilience in their own half was slowly making The Samba Boys a bit nervous, but not panicky yet. Just after the half hour mark, Robinho showboated a little with his adept ball touches and step-overs, passed the ball to full back Bastos, whose screamer was deflected wide of the Korean goal. Soon after, Kaka sent in a lethal low cross from the right flank but the Korean defence cleared it out of danger. Not many would have thought of the probability of the 0-0 scoreline at the end of the first half.
The second half started from where it was left off in the first. Firstly, an Elano screamer got blocked on its way to the keeper and then a Bastos free kick went just wide of the Korean goal. Seven minutes into the second half, Maicon made a trademark run on his flank, blasted a ball into the Korean goal from a very tight angle and gave Brazil the much-awaited lead. The entire Brazilian team was expecting a cross, as was the Korean keeper Ri Myong-Guk, but Maicon’s shot was lethal and neatly disguised. With that goal, the Selacios started to relax a little bit, passing the ball lazily across the field with players sauntering around without purpose.
Maicon broke the deadlock!
Ten minutes later, Elano’s floating cross found the unmarked Juan in the Korean penalty box, who failed to control the ball. A minute later, from a counter-attack, Kaka made a burst, passed the ball to Robinho, who found Fabiano in the box, but the Sevilla striker sent it well over the Korean goal.
On seventy-two minutes, from an inch-perfect exquisite through ball from Robinho, the onrushing Elano slotted home calmly to give Brazil an unassailable lead over their Asian counterparts. Elano was substituted for Barcelona’s star full-back Dani Alves, who had to take up right wing responsibilities.
Meanwhile, Robinho and Nilmar both took their chances from long distance shots but failed to add to the Brazilian goal tally. Just when it looked like Brazil will finish off the game peacefully, Ji Yun-Nam sprang into the Brazilian penalty box from the left flank and smashed one past the Inter Milan keeper.
After this determined Korean effort, Portugal and Ivory Coast will know for certain that their job won’t be easy against the Asian underdogs. Brazil, on the other hand, won’t be satisfied with the way they got the three points, but will settle for it, considering it was their first match of the tournament.
The Hard Tackle’s Player of the Match:
The mercurial right full back, freshly coming from a European Final victory with Inter Milan, looked composed, confident and flawless in his efforts. His smashing drive from a very tight angle was the most important goal of the match and probably of his career.
The Hard Tackle’s Referee Report Card:
Viktor Kassai (Hungary) – Grade A-
The referee didn’t produce any yellow card until the 88th minute of the game and never unnecessarily stopped the flow of game, played very clever advantages and issued multiple warnings for not-so-clinical challenges.
BRAZIL 2-1 DPR KOREA
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Brazil Line-Up: Julio Cesar, Maicon, Juan, Lucio, Michel Bastos, Elano (73’ Dani Alves), Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo (84’ Ramires), Kaka (78’ Nilmar), Robinho, Luis Fabiano
Caution: Ramirez 88′
Scorers: Maicon, Elano
Korean Republic Line-Up: Myong Guk-Ri, Jun-II Ri, Chol Jin Pak, Jong Hyok Cha, Nam Chol PakII, Kwang Cho Ri, Yun Nam Ji, Yong Hak An, In Guk Mun (80’ Kim Kum II), Yong Jo Hong, Jong Tae-Se
Manager: Jeong Hoon Kim
Scorers: Ji Yun-Nam