Brazil escaped with a hard-fought victory in the Group G match after struggling to get past the defensive setup of the North Koreans, who are making their first World Cup appearance in 44 years and, at No. 105, arrived as the tournament’s lowest-ranked team.
Maicon scored at Ellis Park after a through ball from midfielder Elano in the 55th minute. Brazil controlled possession from the start but struggled to break through the Korean lineup with five men at the back. Robinho was about the only Brazilian able to create some dangerous opportunities.
Robinho had his own chance with a long-range shot that missed the target in the seventh and with a quick strike from inside the penalty area that was saved by Ri in the 20th. Robinho cleared a defender again inside the area in the 34th and set up Michel Bastos’ shot that missed over the crossbar.
Brazil continued to dominate in the second half but still without enough poise to break through the Korean defense.
Brazil has won all of its opening matches since a 1-1 draw with Sweden in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. The five-time champions begin the World Cup with a revamped squad following the disappointing elimination in the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Dunga left out stars such as Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Adriano and preferred lesser-known players known for their discipline and hard work.
North Korea is hoping to repeat its heroic campaign from the 1966 tournament in England, when it produced a surprising win over Italy to reach the quarterfinals. The Koreans arrived as most mysterious team in the tournament, with opponents having a hard time finding information about the team playing for the reclusive communist state.