WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – GROUP G: BRAZIL VS. NORTH KOREA
Kickoff: June 15, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Records: Brazil: 0-0-0, 0 points; North Korea: 0-0-0, 0 points
Last game: Brazil: Forward Robinho and midfielder Ramires each scored a pair of goals and all-world midfielder Kaká added another in a 5-1 exhibition victory over Tanzania. The Seleção yielded nine shots, but dominated possession, controlling the ball 61% of the time. North Korea: Forward Jong Tae-Se provided the lone bright spot in a 3-1 exhibition loss to Nigeria. The team had a hard time generating any momentum because defender Cha Jong-Hyok was sent off after accumulating two yellow cards and a subsequent red.
Significance: The winner picks up three vital points to open the tournament. Just three of 36 teams to lose their opener in any of the past three World Cups have made it to the round of 16. Brazil hasn’t lost a World Cup opener since falling to Spain in 1934. North Korea, the lowest ranked team in the tournament at 105th, hasn’t played in a major tournament since the 1992 AFC Asian Cup.
Keep an eye on: Brazil: Kaká. The midfielder was named FIFA’s Player of the Year in 2007 and is one of his country’s most important players, scoring 27 goals in 78 career caps. If Brazil is to win its record sixth World Cup, it will need a performance from Kaká similar to the one he game at last summer’s Confederations Cup, when he earned the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player. North Korea: Jong Tae-Se. The forward has a staggering 15 goals in 22 games and already has put the rest of Goup G on notice with this brash prediction: “I will keep my promise of scoring one goal per game,” Jong told South Korea's Chosun Ilbo. “In our group, it will be Brazil and North Korea who will advance.”
Key to the game: Brazil: Play defense. Brazil yielded a CONMEBOL low-11 goals in 18 games and has adopted a defensive philosophy under Coach Dunga. Utilizing this new approach instead of the team’s traditional emphasis on offensive creativity, the Seleção won the 2007 Copa América, the 2009 Confederations Cup and posted wins over defending World Cup champion Italy, Portugal, Argentina and England en route to becoming the world’s top-ranked team. North Korea: Minimize mistakes. The team’s lack of exposure on the world stage makes the squad a bit of an unknown quantity. The longer North Korea stays in the game against Brazil, the more the pressure will begin to mount on Brazil, a whopping 2 1/2 –goal favorite. The last time North Korea played in the World Cup, in 1966, it upset Italy and became the first Asian team to reach the quarterfinals.
Probable Starting Lineups
NORTH KOREA (Chollima)
World Cup Schedule
New Zealand vs. Slovakia in Rustenburg, 7:30 a.m.
Ivory Coast vs. Portugal in Port Elizabeth, 10 a.m.
Brazil vs. North Korea in Johannesburg, 2:30 p.m.
Honduras vs. Chile in Nelspruit, 7:30 a.m.
Spain vs. Switzerland in Durban, 10 a.m.
South Africa vs. Uruguay in Pretoria, 2:30 p.m.
Note: All times are Eastern Standard