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Anthems analysis: The Brazilian number has a distinctly 1970s British sitcom incidental music ring to it, but everyone sings along with good heart, apart from Robinho. The North Korean anthem is spoiled by lots of vuvuzelas starting up, but it seemed to be pretty presidential in tone. One of the players was brought to tears, which was rather touching.
OK, so I've been reading up on this soccer business, and from what I can make out, Brazil is quite good at it. It's even won this tournament a few times, it says here. In fact, it hasn't lost an opening match at the World Cup since 1934. Coach Dunga's been criticized no end for playing a more pragmatic brand of Brazilian football than spectators are accustomed to, but it's a winning brand and that's all that really counts.
And how do North Korea's chances look? Well, on the plus side, it's never failed to reach the quarterfinals of the World Cup. It's just that North Korea has only qualified once before, in 1966. Whether it can pull off that kind of shock again remains to be seen, since most of us haven't had the chance to see it in action. Fortunately, (South) Korean reader Young Lee has emailed to fill us all in on the least well-known side at the tournament:
"They run like their lives depend on it, to compensate for their lack of skills. They're a shorter, better defending Greece with genuine counter-attacking threat. And they are honest. Unlike our players, they haven't learned the fine art of fouling w/o picking up cards, earning fouls and diving. They don't throw elbows and don't waste time. In fact, they are much like the South Korea team from Mexico '86 and Italia '90." So, there you go then. The bookies might be touting odds on Brazil scoring at least five, but we shouldn't be surprised if Kim Jong Hun's team make it as difficult as possible.
Anyhow, the teams are in, and there's no real surprise from either coach:
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Miacon, Juan, Lucio, Michel Bastos; Gilberto Silva, Felipe Melo; Elano, Kaka, Robinho; Luis Fabiano.
North Korea (5-4-1): Ri Myong Guk; Cha Jong Hyok, Pak Chol Jin, Ri Jun Il, Pak Nam Chol, Ro Kwang Chon; Mun In Guk, Hong Yong Jo, An Yong Hak, Ji Yun Nam; Jong Tae Se.
Rather than cause a diplomatic incident by getting these names wrong, I may resort to shirt numbers if things get frantic.
Brazil is strong favorite to top Group G, while North Korea could well go home without a point. But the Koreanswill be neat and tidy and defend 4-6-0 if they have to, which will hopefully push the Brazilians to be at their most exciting and inventive. Of the 'big' teams to have played so far, only Germany has turned on those of us looking to be entertained, so it's about time we got a game worth a DVD. Or at least a Youtube reel.
The match kicks off at 2.30 p.m. ET, so I'll be online from 2.15 p.m. with team news, vuvuzela complaints, live analysis, witty asides (alright, asides) and your emails -- get them to me at email@example.com.