This could be a spontaneous little day. Strange to to say that, considering Brazil are already assured of progression to the knockout rounds and North Korea are heading home. But they still have important roles to play in which team will accompany Brazil.
Brazil are on 6 points. A win or a draw and they’re top of the group. A loss and they’re the runner-up. (With Spain potentially finishing 2nd in their group, losing today might not be so bad– but we’ll leave that out o the equation and assume Brazil wants to win their own group). In their way? Portugal on 4 points. Only a win will see them take top spot, or else its runner-up.
Unless…. Here’s where it gets crazy. The Ivory Coast, one 1 point, can beat the pointless North Koreans today and draw level with the Portuguese on points if Brazil beats their former colonizers. However, Portugal currently have a +9 goal differential to the Africans which they’d would have to overcome. So the Ivory Coast doesn’t just have to beat North Korea; they’ve got to obliterate them. No guarantee against the unpredictable Asians, but it’ll be fun to see the Africans try.
Let’s not forget the fact that we’ve got Brazil-Portugal as a spectacle. That’d be the connoisseurs choice to watch today, but Ivory Coast could wield more goals against a team that’s already conceded 9.
As always, forgive my typo disease and hit refresh every few minutes to get live updates to my commentary:
Lineup time–Gervinho and Drogba start for IC, as do the brothers Toure and Eboue. No point in playing defensively. Couldn’t tell you if North Korea have made any changes.
Pepe returns for Portugal. He’s listed as a midfielder, we might see some of his trademark swashbuckling runs.
Dani Alves plays at RM right ahead of Maicon at RB. I don’t envy Fabio Coentrao today– that’s pretty frightening.
Kaka suspended, Nilmar in. Robinho rested, Julio Baptista starts.
Here we go.
Brazil in control. Ronald doing completely (gasp) unnecessary stepovers.
Sweet tournament, Sven. Just needed to get my dig in before I forget.
GOAL IVORY COAST! 1-0 after Yaya Toure turns and slots one in the back post. Hello, here we go…
Alves testing his shooting range.
Coentrao has been the best leftback at this World Cup and he’s playing at his best again today. His price is skyrocketing.
GOAL IVORY COAST! 2-0 thanks to Romaric. He’s the tap-in predator after a Drogba thunderbolt careens off the bar.
Sweet comeback, Sven.
Julio Baptista was born with a heavy first touch. It’s amazing he got so heavy assuming he couldn’t stop himself from kicking his bottle out of his crib.
Nilmar off the crossbar! Sorry. Nilmahhh off the crossbahhh! He slipped in behind Portugal to meet a diagonal ball. Close.
Maicon and Alves having a shooting competition. Seriously.
Gervinho inches wide! A nice give-and-go releases him down the right and he pulls it too far.
Fabiano wins a header but can’t find the top corner.
Pepe’s playing physical. He should watch himself or he’ll cut his own return short with a red. Booked for now.
That’s 6 yellows shown so far in BRA-POR. A bit testy.
Felipe Melo off, Josue on. Smart move by Dunga to keep his player from doing something stupid and costly.
Yellow for Coentrao.
Halftime, both games. 2-0 Ivory Coast, o-o between Brazil and Portugal.
It’s a Mexican ref that’s issued 7 yellow cards– he’s never seen anything so physical in his life. When a player goes down he blows his whistle. Force of habit… To his credit though, he did book Tiago for diving in the box.
Analysts on Ronaldo trying to do it all by himself: “You wouldn’t be happy if he was your teammate.” That’s your captain, Portugal.
Second halves underway.
Brazil giving the ball away uncharacteristically.
Both games starting to lull. Ivor Coast camping in Korea’s half. Brazil and Portugal less than incisive.
Meireles follows up a Ronaldo run but can’t find a way past the scrambling Julio Cesar into the open net. Should’ve scored.
Martin Tyler saying how Cesar is “pretty much regarded as the best keeper in the world.” Not sure what world he lives in, but Casillas, Buffon, and Reina are all considered superior by everyone who isn’t Brazilian or an Inter supporter.
Romaric unleashes a corker but can’t find the Ivory Coast’s 3rd goal.
I’ve literally had nothing to talk about this half. North Korea have a shot on goal, I guess. Ronaldo is dribbling around a bit. That’s about all.
Carvalho– brilliant tackle on Baptista. He’s injured and limping.
GOAL IVORY COAST! 3-0 courtesy of Kalou. A leaping finish. Salomon Kalou? Must’ve closed his eyes.
Grafite on for Fabiano. Wolfsburg in the house. He doesn’t score ugly goals, that one.
Eduardo does well to deal with a deflected shot from Ramires. He’s still alert even in injury time.
Fulltime, Ivory Coast beat North Korea 3-0. Both teams out.
Fulltime, Brazil and Portugal draw 0-0. Both teams advance.
Boos filtering down on the Brazilians and Portuguese– bet they aren’t used to hearing that. But it was pretty boring for a matchup between the #1 and #3 ranked teams in the world. Still, it was enough for both of them to go through. Brazil will play the runner-up from the Chile/Spain/Switzerland/Honduras group, and Portugal will have the champions of that Group H. North Korea were burst by Portugal a game ago, but they can still take pride in coming so close to taking something from Brazil in the opener. For the Ivory Coast it was too little too late. With their fate already out of their hands, they finally turned it on and must wonder how they let it all slip through their fingers.
Brazil may have locked up one spot from the group, but the other is there for the taking. With the Ivory Coast only having a point to show for two matches, both Portugal and Korea must try to take all three today. Portugal may be playing a Kaka-less and “rested” Brazil side, but there’s no guarantee of coming out of that final match with a result. They’ll prefer this game to go for it– despite the strong showing by the Asians. No longer unknown, we can expect the Koreans to put together another inspired team performance. They may have lost their opener, but a win here would launch them into pole position to advance.
My running game commentary to follow immediately after the final whistle (I promise):
Right from the start Fabio Coentrao is bombing forward down the left wing.
Ronaldo dribbling with purpose…looks determined NOT to NOT score today.
North Korea played their opener against the #1 ranked team in the world and get to follow that up against the #3. No big deal, right?
A Portuguese corner sees Ricardo Carvalho head off the post. Almost.
Portugal are moving the ball with a sort of cavalier pace that says, “Eff you, Koreans.”
Eduardo is troubled by the first time shot from Jong-Hyok, whose side is starting to get a foothold on the match.
Obligatory shot of Carlos Queiroz looking disgruntled without Alex Ferguson telling him exactly what to do.
Tae-Se can’t control the final pass of a lovely buildup from a counter. He would’ve had a great chance on goal and I think he knew it.
It’s very wet from the rain and I wonder if a slip could cause a big moment today…
Eduardo has to palm a shot from Yong-Jo over. The Koreans don’t live in the opposition half but boy do they make their attacking movements productive.
Koreans finding more shots. (Lil John voice: Shots shots shots shot shots!)
It looks like the Portuguese players cut their own hair. I think a small thanks to them is in order for keeping the World Cup tradition of supermegadodgy hairstyles alive.
Jong-Hyok makes a defensive header. You’ll never see this in the highlights, but it was one of the most difficult maneuvers to pull off. He was running at speed directly toward his goal, only a few feet away, with a Portugal player behind him waiting for the ball to drop right to his position. Hyok was somehow able to flick it in the only direction that wouldn’t mean insta-goal. Impressive.
GOAL PORTUGAL! 1-0 thanks to Meireles. His run cut through the Korean defense like butter and Tiago matched it with an incisive pass– smashed low into the net.
Deco, you watching your understudy giving you a clinic?
Meireles almost a 2nd. A misclearance presents a fair opportunity but he puts it wide.
9-0 in fouls with Portugal doing the damage. I can’t believe that stat, even having seen all the action.
Portugal flashing the ball across the goal now…
…but run out of time. Halftime 1-0.
Portugal finished the half strong, but the Koreans were effective breaking on counterattacks. Both sides probably content to let the game continue to play out that way.
Just thinking back to yesterday– if Lucio is likely the best captain at the World Cup, Ronaldo might be the worst. He’s got the talent and at this point, the experience– but I can’t think of many players with worse temperaments who do so little to motivate their teammates.
Start of the 2nd half– spotted in the crowd: Iron Man, the Teletubbies. Couldn’t make that up.
Tiago shot palmed over the bar.
Tae-Se free kick tests the keeper, if only slightly.
GOAL PORTUGAL! 2-0 thanks to Simao. His diagonal ball leads to a short-short-long combo that ultimately finds him in the right channel to slot home.
GOAL PORTUGAL! 3-0 courtesy of an unmarked Almeida header from Coentrao’s cross.
GOAL PORTUGAL! Tiago makes it 4-0. A Ronaldo cross to the edge of the box is met by Tiago’s first time shot with the inside of his right foot.
Even the Chinese actors paid to portray North Korean fans look genuinely embarrassed.
This loss will eliminate the Koreans and the final scoreline will look miserable; but, they can be proud of their World Cup. They were exceptional for 135 minutes against Brazil and Portugal.
Coentrao sails one inches from the back post.
Ronaldo’s shot off the post sends droplets of water spraying into Cape Town.
If only Kim Jong-il wasn’t so busy, he could come on and score 5 here.
GOAL PORTUGAL! Now it’s 5-0 thanks to a Liedson volley off a poor clearance that never leaves the box.
I’ve simply stopped writing anything else– just waiting for the next goal.
GOAL PORTUGAL! Unbelievable but I must report that it’s now 6-0. Ronaldo finally gets his, and ironically it’s the ugliest/easiest of them all. He pressured the defender into putting him through on goal, and he almost juggled himself out of the chance before finding the ball and doing the business.
Come on, dude. GOAL PORTUGAL! 7-0 after Tiago heads in a cross. Pretty sensational.
When it rains, it pours. That’s the old expression and it was true in more ways than one today. There’s not much spin to put on an old fashioned 7-0 walloping, especially seeing how this pretty much clarifies the the positions of Group G. Brazil are automatically through and North Korea automatically out. Unless Ivory Coast wallops Korea and Brazil wallops Portugal (to overcome the +9 goal difference favoring the Europeans), Portugal will be accompanying their linguistic brothers to the knockout stages.
So many people have been looking forward to this particular match. As the #1 ranked team in the world, and 5 time World Cup Champion, the Brazilians always seems to have the most intense attention focused upon them. It’s what makes the Samba Boys dazzle, the extra element of international awe and envy. A mixture of affection and disbelief– their trademark. Under the stern Dunga, not so.
Many people still aren’t aware that the grinning Ronaldinho– prominently featured in Nike’s Write the Future campaign –isn’t even in South Africa. The ever calming, defensive midfielder Gilberto Silva instead has seen a Renaissance under the latest manager– epitomizing the culture Dunga has brought to a traditionally flamboyant squad. (Over-exuberance, I would argue, was their downfall in 2006). So it could be an unfamiliar Brazil we see today with the combination of Dunga’s discipline and Samba style.
But if Brazil are unpredictable, their opponents are straight up unknown. With most of their practices and matches closed to the free world, North Korea has the asset of surprise on their side. I know they’ve tried to smuggle an extra striker by claiming he’s a goalkeeper. I know their glorious leader once shot a 38 under par the first time he played golf, then rolled a perfect 300 on his maiden bowling expedition. But that’s about all the info I have on North Korea sport. I know none of their players and I won’t pretend I do.
But here’s what I do know. I would LOVE to see them win. Win this match, win any match, win every match. I can’t really explain it and I know it sounds borderline Un-American, but I can’t deny how incredible it would be. NK are the lowest ranked team in South Africa, playing against the highest. Nobody knows them. EVERYBODY hates them. Kim Jong-il is absolutely ridiculous; he’s the Jose Mourinho of political heads. (I’ve named my fantasy team Kim Jong-illmatic in honor of his excellence, in case you had not read that the million times I’ve mentioned it). In terms of World Cup upsets, I think only the Vatican winning it all would be more shocking. (Everyone knows the Holy See has been weak in goal ever since John Paul II transferred the Heaven Division).
Here’s hoping for an upset… Live commentary to begin around kickoff. As always, hit refresh every few minutes to get hot injections of my football genius:
Wage disputes between officials and security forces lead to police taking charge of safety here. I’d like to think this is is some sort of ploy by Mr. illmatic.
Sign spotted: “Kim Jong-il thinks I’m at work.” Keep them coming, please. I know I’m banging on here, but it’s not often we get to see North Korea involved in any international competitions.
Maicon starts ahead of Dani Alves at right back. If Barca won the Champions League instead of Inter, would it be the other way around?
Luis Fabiano is better than Robinho. There, I said it. I hope he backs me up tonight.
Vuvuzelas trying desperately to drown out the North Korean anthem. Wonder if any South Koreans are in the stands…
North Korean player crying. It’s actually pretty overwhelming, being where he is after god knows what he’s grown up through.
I swear I just saw a Dodgers jacket in the crowd behind Dunga. Mexican fans?
Korea using a sweeper. Already going up in my estimation.
Brazil with some flair early. Robinho and Fabiano.
Majority of NK team had never seen a cellular phone before this month… Do you think they’ve ever witnessed anything like Brazil tonight?
Elano and Robinho shooting wide. Brazil getting forward better.
Odds on North Korean defection: 5-1.
Two Brazilians have been megged so far, but nothing any more dangerous.
Jong Tae-Se beats a man and has a shot. Nothing likely to beat Julio Cesar, but this game isn’t totally lopsided, yet.
NK aren’t afraid of the Brazilians, but Brazil can strike in an instant.
Mun In-Guk tries to chip Julio Cesar from his own half. See my above comment.
Robinho almost slides one in but the keeper is keen to it.
Kaka looks out of sync. Been the case ever since he left Milan. And got married. No further comment.
Maicon tries his luck from long range. Dani Alves is jittery on the bench.
Lucio is fantastic. Both his play and his personality are top notch. He remind me of Dunga, and I bet I’m not the only one who sees it.
Robinho is entertaining the crowd but he can’t make it into anything substantial.
A lot of sportsmanship being shown between the two teams. This is the best 0-0 match I’ve seen at the tournament thus far.
Gilberto Silva drenched in sweat. Kaka dry as bones. It should be the opposite, but Brazil must work harder than usual.
0-0 halftime. WOW! 104 places separate the two teams in FIFA rankings, but they’re dead even here after 45 minutes. Sometime in the second half the Koreans have to slip up, or Brazil finally realizes THEY’RE BRAZIL. It’s inevitable. We already saw one fairytale this morning, no way we get a second…
Second half underway. North Korea have set up a wall on the edge of their box, keeping all foreigners out. Couldn’t resist.
Bastos free kick just wide. Koreans breathe easier.
GOAL BRAZIL! 1-0, with a Maicon stunner. Looked like a skewed cross that slips inside the near post. Either brilliant or unlucky, depending on on your perspective. Potentially another goalkeeper on “the list.”
Brazil is relaxed now. They’ve got the monkey off their back and have returned to their freestyling nature. Fabiano does well to jink free of his defender but blasts over. The shots are adding up now.
Martin Tyler: “I’ve just been told the North Korean fans here aren’t actually North Korean. They’re handpicked Chinese actors playing the role of North Koreans.”
Reread the above quote and let that soak in.
2-0 BRAZIL! Elano slots home a perfect Robinho pass. Well done by both of them. Dani Alves on for the goalscorer.
I’m 75% sure I saw Dunga’s turtleneck on Planet Earth last night.
Nilmar on for Kaka. Or as they call him in Boston, “Nil-Mahhhhh.”
Brazil look like they want to outdo the Germans’ opening mark. They smell Korean blood in the water. I smell another goal.
Juan has a last ditch tackle to stop Jong from smashing one past the keeper. Where did that come from?
GOAL NORTH KOREA! It’s 1-2 now! The actors go crazy in the stands! Ji Yun-Nam brilliantly ghosts through the Brazilian defense and finds the back of the net. Some life in the Asians yet. Entering stoppage time.
Jong’s shooting every time he gets the ball. He’s playing with his heart, not his head. He was the one who broke down during the national anthems.
FULLTIME 2-1 Brazil.
Well, it’s three points for the Brazilians but they had to do it the hard way. I’m sure the South Americans are pleased to have the victory and to see the backs of the resolute North Koreans. The latter are bottom of the group but their pride is unblemished. What sounded crazy two hours ago I have no doubt saying now– North Korea are capable of getting results at the expense of Portugal and Ivory Coast.
Ruud Gullit and Macca arguing about Maicon’s first goal… I’ll see you all tomorrow.