Evening Standard

The world of football must no longer expect Brazil to play in the old way and score four or five goals. That Brazil, the embodiment of the beautiful game, is dead. Hail the new Brazil that make few chances and ensure they give the opposition no chances.

That was the message that Gilberto Silva, the former Arsenal star who now plays for Panathinaikos, proudly conveyed after Brazil’s competent but, by no means, overwhelming victory over a North Korean side making their first appearance in the finals since 1966.

The victory was so unconvincing that some bookmakers lengthened Brazil’s odds from 4-1 to 9-2, with Spain — who began their campaign this afternoon — remaining at 7-2 to lift the trophy.

This was the first time the two teams had met and Gilberto justified the hard-fought victory when he said: “Despite what some people expect, that Brazil will score four or five goals, people must know that football has changed.

“If you don’t do the right things at the right moments, you have problems. If you play a very open game you can have a problem at the end of the day and in this type of tournament, you may not have chance to recover. We must respect the game and all the circumstances.”

In support of his argument, Gilberto pointed to the 14 matches in this tournament so far, which has seen just 23 goals. “Football has changed,” he added.

“I am not wrong in what I say. Look at the results in this World Cup. Some of the teams play not to lose and a lot of teams can compete. Look at Japan versus Cameroon, most teams are now equal. What can make a difference is tactical or an individual situation at one particular moment.”

It was just one such individual moment that changed the course of this match when, in the 55th minute, the Brazil defender Maicon burst down the right and instead of he crossing took advantage of the narrow gap that North Korea goalkeeper Myong Guk had left.

The Inter player could not have been more delighted by his strike and said: “For sure it was an important moment in my career because it is a goal in a World Cup.”

Those sentiments were not shared by the North Korea forward Jong Tae Se, who blamed his goalkeeper for providing Maicon his moment of glory. Jong, who has been dubbed the North Korean Wayne Rooney, said: “Unfortunately, there was a mistake by the goalkeeper but we always thought the first goal would be important.

“I had a lot of chances but I could not score. Brazil have a lot of ability and we are not at the same level as them.”

Despite this, like the Koreans of ’66, the 2010 vintage did score when Jong’s colleague Ji Yun Nam took advantage of slack defending to surprise Brazil keeper Julio Cesar. But that came in the 88th minute, by which time Brazil had the game won, Galatasaray’s Elano having scored the second, after taking full advantage of the fact that Maicon’s goal had forced the Koreans to chase the game.

Before that opening goal, the Koreans had parked the bus’ in front of their goal and often strung eight in a line in their penalty area. They conceded possession to the Brazilians but denied them an open assault on their goal.

With the Koreans now attacking more after falling behind, the South Americans finally got an uncluttered sight of their opponents’ goal. They made the most of it in the 72nd minute, when a flowing move saw Robinho provide a defence-splitting pass. It left Elano ample time to side-foot the ball home.

Despite the fact that the football before the goal had not been vintage Brazil, the former Manchester City player was satisfied: “To win the first game is all that we want,” he said.

“We know they would come with a defensive team but we could score and get the victory. It is always complicated to play against a team like that who are so defensive.”

Of greater concern for Brazil was that Kaka, still recovering from injury, was a peripheral figure before he was substituted by coach Dunga but Gilberto added: “I am sure in every game Kaka will improve, what is beautiful is to see him because he is really hungry to do well for Brazil and for himself.

“The team are behind him, they support him and he has the confidence of everyone. I am sure in the next game he will be much much better.”

Brazil’s next game is on Sunday against Ivory Coast, who drew 0-0 with Portugal yesterday in what has been dubbed the Group of Death.

All Brazilian players are very aware of how dangerous this section could be and keeper Cesar said: “It is a difficult group I have no doubts about it the next game against Ivory Coast will be difficult also.

“So the most important thing in our opening match was we play well and to get the three points.”


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