What: Brazil vs. North Korea, Group G, Match 2
When: Tuesday, June 15, 2:30 pm ET
Where: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
TV: ESPN, Univision
Brazil, everyone’s second team, finally hit the field nearly a week into the tournament, which means that everyone from Rio to Riyadh is going to be abuzz with the samba beat. But there are questions about Dunga’s team -- not about their effectiveness, but about their lack of flair. This Brazilian side are, somehow, not the Brazil of our imaginations. Of course, no one knows what they will face in their opening opponent, North Korea. So little is known about the Chollima that even preparing for them has been a challenge.
Dunga, a hard-nosed disciplined midfielder as a player, has chosen his Seleçao to reflect his younger self. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. But there is still plenty of creativity and talent, beginning with the number 10, Kaká. Real Madrid’s maestro has never really replicated his club form at the international level, but now, in the absence of Ronaldinho, this is his Brazilian team. He is joined by the equally mercurial Robinho and powerful strikers Luis Fabiano and Julio Baptista.
WATCH: BRAZIL TEAM PROFILE
While the fans back home clamor for teenage phenom Neymar or AC Milan flier Alexandre Pato, Dunga has stuck with the organized side that qualified first in South America and won last year’s Confederations Cup. For all their attacking prowess, the real strength might be the defense, boasting Inter Milan defenders Maicon and Lucio, and Panathinaikos holding midfielder Gilberto Silva. They are disciplined, dangerous on set pieces, and experienced enough to handle any mysteries sure to come against the North Koreans.
The North Koreans have quietly prepared for their opener, under the radar and out of the press. They have had limited media access to training and coach Kim Jong-Hun refused to answer any politically tinged questions in the last pregame press conference.
WATCH: NORTH KOREA TEAM PROFILE
Kim said the side are fully prepared to deal with Brazil. “Nobody is injured or has doubts. They are all in top shape,” he said.
Still, there seems to be a little bit of optimistic delusion from the North Koreans. They will employ highly defensive tactics, just as they did in qualifying, trying to stifle the Brazilian attack with their fitness and organization. But will they manage any offense?
Players to Watch
Brazil: Maicon. Defenders never get the respect they deserve, but there are some that believe the indefatigable attacking-obsessed Inter Milan right back is the best player in the world. He is Roberto Carlos 2.0.
North Korea: Jong Tae-Se. One of just two players who play outside of North Korea, Jong has been a regular scorer for J-League side Kawasaki Frontale for five seasons now. He is also a fascinating story: Born in Japan to parents with South Korean citizenship, he chose to become a North Korean citizen.
On paper, this should be a blowout. But the problem is, there is so little on paper about North Korea. Still, regardless of a lack of fan-pleasing flair, Brazil are Brazil and they should have no problem untying the Koreans’ defensive knot.