Germany looked to have lit the blue touch-paper on Sunday night and we all stood back and turned our faces to the skies. Two days later, we're still waiting for the big, loud fireworks to go off. New Zealand's draw with Slovakia was pleasant enough, like sparklers. The goalless draw between Ivory Coast and Portugal started with a fizz and a spark, but quickly went pfut. Brazil's win over North Korea didn't have the "ooh, aah" factor we'd hoped for, but it was at least an enjoyable watch. In fact, this was the first game that really felt worthy of being a World Cup finals encounter since South Africa held Mexico on Day 1.
We expected North Korea to be defensive, and the five-man back line sat on the edge of the penalty area for the entire first half, with the four-man midfield not far in front of it. Brazil's attempts to wiggle through the wall, no matter how deft the flicks, were halted every time, but what stopped this being a snoozefest was a) the fact that Kim Jong Hun's men looked to get forward when they could (and knowing that they'd come off worse if they had to try and take the ball past a Brazilian, passed it with encouraging urgency), and b) the fact that the Brazilians didn't give up or become petulant.
In the opening minutes of the second half, it was clear that
Elano found it 15 minutes later, fed in by Robinho having slipped through the rows of red shirts. It stuck a pin in any realistic hope that North Korea might pull off a shock result, but Brazil's pressing in the last 20 minutes was met by stern resistance, and when a free-kick was flung forwards in the 88th minute,
Robinho was Brazil's best player today by a reasonable distance, bringing pace, neat touches and the perfect through-ball for Elano's goal to the party. He did more running than any other forward player. It wouldn't do to ignore Slovakia's
He won't go unsung by too many Kiwis after popping up with an equalizer in the 93rd minute against Slovakia, but
The South Koreans told us to expect better from their Northern neighbors, but drawn in a group containing Brazil, Ivory Coast and Portugal, it seemed a waste of time to entertain notions of North Korea doing more than proving irritatingly defensive. Having watched its fearlessness against Brazil, and the blunt edges of the Portuguese and Ivorian attacks, I rather like the cut of North Korea's jib even in that company.
Whether or not he meant it (did it come off his toes because he couldn't get his foot around it to shape the intended cross, or because he fancied his chances?), Maicon's goal against North Korea
"We just started laughing... it was just quite funny to come out with a little 'boo-boo'" --
10 -- the game between Ivory Coast and Portugal contained 10 times as many fouls as it did shots on target.
A sciatic nerve problem forced Gianluigi Buffon out of Italy's match last night, and the doctors suspect he might have to miss its next.
Tomorrow kicks off with Honduras versus Chile, a meeting that could push the goal count up if it goes to form: Chile's team talks seem to consistent of one word, "attack," while Honduras looks shaky at the back.
European champion Spain finally gets onto the pitch to conclude the action in Group G against Switzerland. Swiss coach
Then we're back to Group A in the last match of the day, with South Africa looking to continue its positive start against Uruguay. Both teams look like making changes in reaction to their first games --