Brazil make a little magic go a long way

Johannesburg: Brazil began their World Cup campaign doing what they do best under single-minded coach Dunga -- making a little inspiration go just far enough in a 2-1 win over North Korea in Group G.

One moment of pure individual brilliance from Maicon produced the opener after a first half that was as monotonous as the drone of the vuvuzelas and the team`s only other meaningful passing movement gave them the second through Elano.

The question remains whether the occasional piece of magic will be enough against better sides than North Korea, who fought hard on their return to the World Cup after a 44-year absence and gave Brazil a scare when Ji Yun-nam beat Julio Cesar with a terrific blast late on.

Whether it is enough or not, it is clear that is all we are going to get.

This Brazil team showed no signs of having a viable Plan B at their disposal and no obvious substitute for an out-of-form Kaka when faced with a hard-working, defensively skilled team.

Make no mistake, this was an uncomfortable night for Brazil almost throughout.

The fans were packed into Ellis Park to see them begin their quest for a sixth World Cup success, hopefully with a bit of the style of some of the great teams that have graced past tournaments.

In the first half, there was little to warm the hearts of Brazil supporters on a freezing night, though there was much to admire in the well drilled defence and utter lack of nerves from a North Korean team who despite the defeat have plenty of reason to hope they can progress.

The Brazilian approach was as cautious as we have come to expect under Dunga and they were quickly reduced to taking hopeless long shots after Robinho had shown the only brief moment of individual skill early on.

That was bettered early in the second half when Elano played in Maicon on the over-lap and the marauding right-back, seeing Ri Myong-guk off his line, sent in a brutally swerving shot that beat the keeper at his near post from the tightest of angles.

Ruthless Counter-Attack

The one thing no one doubts about this Brazil team is that they are expert counter-attackers and once North Korea were forced to commit more players it was no surprise to see a beautifully worked second goal, Robinho playing a perfectly judged pass for Elano to shoot across the goalkeeper and in.

The crowd was finally warmed up but still there was a lack of urgency and precision and it might have cost them as midfielder Ji Yun-nam surged through the defence, evaded the challenge of Juan and fired past Julio Cesar.

It was too late to really damage Brazil but it will give North Korea a jolt of self-belief as they prepare for their remaining Group G games against Portugal and Ivory Coast, who drew 0-0 in the earlier match.

It is clear already they are not going to be the expected pushovers in this impossibly tough group and there will be a lot for their future rivals to think about in this performance.

In the end they were beaten by a Brazil side with superior individual players but with little about them to suggest they are about to take this World Cup by storm.

Bureau Report

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