Football

Brazil wary of unknown North Korea in their opening match

Brazilian players during a practice session in Curitiba, Brazil. File Photo.

Brazilian players during a practice session in Curitiba, Brazil. File Photo.   | Photo Credit: Maurilio Cheli

Five-time champions Brazil begin their World Cup campaign against minnows North Korea wary of falling victims to a shock defeat.

Coach Carlos Dunga has ordered closed training session for three of the last four days as he prepared for the Group G encounter in Ellis Park, Johannesburg.

The South Americans have admitted to knowing nothing about their opponents, who last appeared at a World Cup finals in England in 1966 when they famously beat Italy 1-0 and were 3-0 up against Portugal before going out 5-3.

Those exploits are still inspiring the present North Korean squad, according to striker Jong Tae Se who said the Koreans believe in another historic win.

“The match will be very difficult but we can beat Brazil,” said Japan-based 26-year-old Jong, who is North Korea’s best known player and popular on both sides of the border as well as in Japan.

“Everybody thinks we can’t but we have a valiant heart and lots of spirit. Valiant hearts can do miracles,” he told reporters last week at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa, outside Johannesburg.

Jong, who is known as the “Asian Rooney” although he says he prefers Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba, grew up in Japan and plays with three Brazilians for club side Kawasake Frontale.

“Our team has a mentality similar to the German one which is the best in the world,” he added.

The North Koreans come to the tournament amid political friction with South Korea who have accused the communist nation of a recent torpedo attack on a South Korean naval vessel which killed 46 people.

That’s a subject which appears off bounds to the Koreans.

Midfielder Kim Yong Jun was one to block questions about the South Korean team, saying he was only speaking about the opponents in the group, which also features Portugal and Ivory Coast.

“The main focus is to defend our nation and honour our flag,” he said.

South Korea’s Park Ji Sung, however, believes North Korea could spring a surprise in what has been called the “group of death”.

Park, who scored in South Korea’s 2-0 win over Greece in Port Elizabeth, faced North Korea twice during qualifying and says he does not think North Korea will lose all three matches as many predict.

“I think North Korea can surprise the world, even though they are not well-known,” the Manchester United midfielder said.

“I want to see how North Korea play against their world-class opponents. They are certainly in the group of death but I am happy that both Koreas are playing in the World Cup.” Brazil coach Dunga has meanwhile given no clues about his starting line-up, but it could be the same team which beat Tanzania 5-1 in a friendly last week, with Robinho and Luis Fabiano up front.

Keeper Julio Cesar has recovered from a back injury while midfielder Kaka, who had complained of some tightness, is fully fit again.

“We have to respect the Koreans,” said midfielder Elano who is expected to start in midfield with Felipe Melo, Kaka and Gilberto Silva.

“When we look at history, Brazil may have many more titles than they do, but once the match starts we will need to have the same respect as we would have to any other team,” he said.

Following Brazil’s 1-0 exit to France in the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Dunga has preferred players prepared to work hard and accept a more disciplined playing style which has drawn criticism back home.

However Dunga led Brazil to the Confederations Cup title last year and they finished first in the South American World Cup qualifying, making the team as usual one of the top World Cup favourites.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 4:47:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/Brazil-wary-of-unknown-North-Korea-in-their-opening-match/article16245186.ece

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