The North Koreans, ranked 85th in the world, kept Brazil at bay for 55
minutes until Maicon's cross-cum-shot swerved in at the near post and
the three points were assured by a rare moment of magic as Robinho laid a
second goal on a plate for former Manchester City teammate Elano,
although Ji Yun-nam gave it a late scare by halving the deficit.
The win took Brazil top of Group G, above Portugal and Cote d'Ivoire, but it did not look particularly convincing in living up toits tag of joint World Cup favourites alongside Spain.
North Korea was first to have a shot on target after 10
minutes when Japan-born striker Jong Tae-se bustled past two markers and
drilled in a left-footed shot which Julio Cesar was able to gather.
Brazil was dominating possession but struggling to pick the final
pass and the North Koreans were not purely sitting back as Cha Jong-hyok got
forward to blast a left-footed shot wide after 15 minutes.
The South American team threatened when Luis Fabiano slotted the ball
through to Robinho in the box. The forward, on loan at Santos from
Manchester City, was able to make room for a shot but North Korea
goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk got well behind it.
The lack of genuine width seemed to be causing Brazil problems as
North Korea's five-man defence ganged up on Kaka, Luis Fabiano, Robinho
and Elano in a congested attacking third and Kim Jong-hun's team were
content to burst forward in small numbers on the break.
Goalkeeper Ri parried away a Maicon drive at his near post in the
28th minute which was Brazil's best effort up to that point.
The North Koreans were making a fight of it and, following a corner,
Pak Chol-jin cut the ball back from the right to Ri Kwang-chon but the
defender scuffed a presentable shooting chance wide from 25 yards.
Not much was going Brazil's way as Michel Bastos' shot deflected off
Pak Chol-jin and looped over the crossbar with Hungarian referee Viktor
Kassai wrongly awarding a goal-kick, and Ri Kwang-chon made a vital
header clear under pressure from Luis Fabiano as the half ended
goalless, against all the odds.
The second half started in much the same vein as the first had ended
as North Korea, to borrow Jose Mourinho's phrase, "parked the bus" on
the edge of the box and Brazil struggled to find a way through.
Michel Bastos blasted a free-kick wide from just outside the box in
the 51st minute after Pak Chol-jin was penalised for a foul on Kaka. The
Real Madrid star then chested the ball down for Robinho to shoot from
26 yards but his right-footed effort was again wayward.
The goal finally came on 55 minutes when Elano played the ball into
the box for the overlapping Maicon and his shot beat Ri at the near
post, with the goalkeeper seemingly expecting the Inter Milan full-back
to cut the ball back rather than shoot.
Ri fisted clear another long-range drive from Michel Bastos and, as
North Korea committed more men forward, they left gaps. On one
counter-attack Robinho found Luis Fabiano, who beat defender Ri Jun-il
in the box but blasted a left-footed shot over.
Brazil added a second in the 72nd minute and it was a thing of beauty
as Robinho slipped a perfect through-ball to Elano advancing into the
box on the right and the Galatasaray man made no mistake with a cool
side-footed finish. The goalscorer was immediately substituted, with
Dani Alves coming on.
Villarreal forward Nilmar, on for Kaka, drove in a right-footed shot
which Ri gathered at the second attempt with 12 minutes left and he also
had to field a Felipe Melo effort shortly afterwards.
Juan had to make a last-ditch tackle to deny Jong a late chance and
Ji then burst through to score, sparking a wild celebration, although
the points remained with Brazil.