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Three quick thoughts: Brazil-North Korea


Three quick thoughts after Brazil's 2-1 victory over North Korea in Group G on Tuesday.

1. We have yet another goalkeeping blunder. North Korea's strategy was to defend like mad, to stay organized and compact, and hope for a scoreless draw. A young team (with an average age of 25 and four months, it is the second youngest in the World Cup), the North Koreans showed great discipline and held Brazil scoreless for 54 minutes. But then Maicon got loose on the right, and as he carried the ball to the end line it looked as if he would cut a pass back toward the spot. North Korea goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk thought the same, and inched away from the near post. Maicon caught him leaning and fired a shot past. It was not exactly a mistake on the level of England's Robert Green against the U.S., but one of the cardinal rules of goalkeeping is to never get beat near post.

2. Who are these guys? So little is known about the North Korea players that it is hard to know if a player had a game up to or above the norm. What is undeniable is that forward Jong Tae-Se had a heck of a game. The 26-year-old, who plays for Kawasaki Frontale in Japan, was dangerous on the counterattack and one of the few North Koreans able to sustain possession. He also assisted on Ji Yun-nam's goal in the 89th minute, which momentarily turned the game on its head. It would be easy to tab Jong and others as potential targets of European clubs after a performance like that against one of the world's great teams, but nothing is easy with North Korea, so who knows.

3. Ronaldinho was not missed, yet. As Brazil struggled to crack North Korea's defense in the first half (and because of those ever-present Nike commercials), it was impossible not to wonder if Brazil could have used a little of Ronaldinho's magic. It is too early to say definitively if Brazil missed him (or, to a lesser degree, talents like Alexandre Pato and Diego), but after one game Dunga's decision to leave him home can't be questioned.