So far the 2010 World Cup has been somewhat of a letdown. Cautious and negative tactics have dominated the opening round of fixtures.
For the moment, only Germany can lay claim to having sufficiently impressed with their display of flair and attacking football.
Last night however, North Korea will have earned themselves plenty of plaudits for their plucky and spirited performance against the five time winners of the tournament, Brazil.
Organised, disciplined and determined, the North Koreans showed the millions watching worldwide they weren’t prepared to lie down against Dunga’s star-studded line-up.
A tribute to the game plan set out by manager Kim Jong-Hun, despite playing with five defenders and three equally defensive-minded midfield players in front, North Korea offered a genuine attacking threat on the counter attack. Jong Tae-Se and Hong Yong-Jo displayed strength and technical ability that, at times, caused the Brazilians problems.
Tae-Se in particular had a splendid game and gave one of Europe’s top defenders throughout 2009/10, Lucio, a tough time. North Korea’s flat back five and compact three in midfield left Brazil with little space in the final third and a number of their star players struggled to make an impact, most notably Kaka.
As the game wore on, Brazil’s midfield started to dictate the game – with Robinho particularly influential. Dunga’s decision to push his full-backs further forward in the second half certainly paid off as Maicon’s excellent run into the penalty area brought him a goal.
Brazil wore the Koreans down eventually but credit must be given to Jong-Hun’s side who played out their tactics almost to perfection. Only an instinctive piece of play from Maicon and a sublime ball from Manchester City misfit Robinho were able to penetrate an otherwise faultless performance from the underdogs.
They even managed to grab themselves a goal as Tae-Se’s awareness and Ji Yun-nam’s superb run into the box provided the Korean’s with a late consolation.
Although the game didn’t produce the greatest free-flowing, end-to-end football that the tournament has been crying out for, this was certainly the most fascinating game of the 2010 World Cup so far.
North Korea – for all the disparaging remarks made against them – aren’t a bad side. In fact, they are a very decent side. It’s obvious to see why they didn’t concede a lot of goals in qualifying. Some may call their setup negative but it’s effective and it got them to their first finals in 44 years. It also brought them a result that the team can be extremely proud of.
With Portugal and the Ivory Coast still to come, you can bet that North Korea won’t surrender their World Cup dream easily.