Brazil not great, but good enough in opener

CanWest News Service
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SOCCER/WORLD CUP

There's something about those canary yellow and blue uniforms.

Gets you every time.

The insidious beat of Brazilian drums joined the by-now persistent buzz of vuvuzelas as la Selecao, the glam gang, made their World Cup 2010 debut on a Reykjavik-cold night in Joburg.

Kaka. Robinho. Fabiano. Silva. Maicon. Cesar.

Brazil's Lucio goes over North Korea's Jong Tae Se (front) during their World Cup Group G soccer match at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on Tuesday. Brazil, ranked No. 1 in the world, defeated North Korea, ranked 105th, by a 2-1 score.

JOHANNESBURG -

There's something about those canary yellow and blue uniforms.

Gets you every time.

The insidious beat of Brazilian drums joined the by-now persistent buzz of vuvuzelas as la Selecao, the glam gang, made their World Cup 2010 debut on a Reykjavik-cold night in Joburg.

Kaka. Robinho. Fabiano. Silva. Maicon. Cesar.

More famous Brazilian exports worldwide than even the Girl from Ipanema. Their arrival onto the pitch Tuesday night drew a thousand pinpricks of light, a ritualistic flash-popping of worship usually reserved for kings, presidents and popes.

A Brazil match, any Brazil match, is always a fascinating study in stargazing.

And after finding frustration at most every turn (not to mention a red-clad North Korean defender posing as a stop sign) for 50-plus minutes, the World Cup co-favourites finally succeeded in battering down the sturdy defensive barricades erected by the DPR, launching their campaign with a 2-1 win over the tournament's lowest-ranked team.

The score line certainly didn't reflect the degree of Brazilian dominance. They had a staggering 70 per cent of ball possession and pelted the Korean net with 10 shots.

"The opener is always harder," reflected coach Dunga, who was wearing a coat that looked as if it'd been stolen from a doorman at the Rio Hilton. "There is the anxiety, the players are more nervous than usual, trying to do too much.

"I'm not entirely happy but this is common in football. The spirit of this team is noteworthy and this team wants to go forward."

Perhaps not their most scintillating display - not on par with Germany's clinical dismantling of the Aussies, certainly - but a decent beginning against a foe whose primary tactic was nothing more ambitious than survival. Many of Brazil's great individual talents, most notably Kaka and striker Luis Fabiano, struggled to make much impact.

If the Koreans were anti-football, the night was antifreeze.

Temperature at kickoff hovered near minus-3 Celsius. Not that the disciples who make pilgrimages to wherever the Brazilians play in a major tournament cared. Much.

And in a sense, everyone went away happy. Brazil snared the crucial W to kick-start its quest for a sixth World Cup title. And the North Koreans managed to actually score a goal - their first in the competition since a last visit 44 years ago, while hanging tough.

The sight of striker Jong Tae Se weeping openly during the playing of his country's national anthem is one that will linger in memory for quite some time.

"I thought we fought bravely,' said North Korea coach Kim Jong Hun proudly. "We defended very well.

"I think we gained a lot of experience and for the remaining two games we have gained confidence."

For Brazil, yhe victorious result likely won't be enough to appease the fans back home, where criticism of Dunga's more conservative approach to the game has proven controversial in a nation that values style over everything.

"It's important to start with a victory and we did it," Maicon protested. "It was a good step toward our goal of being in the final on July 11."

Geographic location: Brazil, JOHANNESBURG, Reykjavik Joburg Germany North Korea

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