Group G is easily the toughest group in the FIFA World Cup. Termed as the ‘Group of Death’, it features 5-time World Champions Brazil, last World Cup’s semifinalists Portugal, arguably the strongest of the African sides Ivory Coast and minnows North Korea. Brazil will head into this game with the knowledge of how their competition has fared as their contest against the North Koreans kicks off 2½ hours after Portugal and the Ivory Coast do battle in Port Elizabeth (on June 15). In the considerably safer confines of Ellis Park in Johannesburg, Brazil will aspire to torture the North Koreans with mesmerizing one touch football and multiple step-overs. And anything less than a 4 goal margin of victory will be deemed insufficient by their millions of fans.
Brazil always come with huge expectations to the World Cup finals. They have won the tournament the most number of times, have qualified for every single World Cup, scored the maximum goals, won the most matches and hence are rightly favorites & the most popular team. Brazil has won the World Cup on every continent it has been staged and Dunga’s men would be looking to complete the set by winning it in Africa. (Click here for a detailed preview of Team Brazil)
North Korea on the other hand would consider themselves extremely unfortunate to be drawn in the Group of Death. Making only their second World Cup appearance, the odds are hugely stacked against them to even get a single point, let alone the possibility of going to the knockout phase of the tournament. Facing Brazil in their first match is as daunting a task as it can get. Amazingly though in their only previous World Cup finals appearance in 1966, they made it all the way to the quarter-finals! (Click here for a detailed preview of Team North Korea)
Road to the finals:
Brazil eventually secured top position in their qualification campaign but they were made to fight all the way for pole position in a campaign riddled with draws. But despite some shortcomings they have been in great touch over the last 4 years winning the Copa America and the Confederations Cup. In fact, they have just lost 5 games in that time period, and their recent demolition of Tanzania in a friendly showed that the mighty Brazilians are all set to notch up some big wins.
North Korea had a see-saw pattern in their qualification campaign. Starting off extremely well with 5 wins in 7 games but things went terribly wrong from there onwards. They only managed to win 3 of their remaining 9 games and eventually secured top position on basis of their superior goal difference to Saudi Arabia. A positive to take away from their qualifying campaign was that they kept clean sheets in their last 5 home games.
14th November, England, friendly, 1-0, win
17th November, Oman, friendly, 2-0, win
2nd March, Republic of Ireland, friendly, 2-0, win
2nd June, Zimbabwe, friendly, 3-0, win
7th June, Tanzania, friendly, 5-1, win
North Korea (LDLWW)
11th February, Saudi Arabia, WCQ, 1-0 win
28th March, UAE, WCQ, 2-0 win
1st April, South Korea, WCQ, 1-0, loss
25th May, Greece, friendly, 2-2, draw
6th June, Nigeria, friendly, 3-1, loss
Like every Brazilian team there is a horde of world class talent in this bunch of players. Even after the exclusion of Ronaldinho and Adriano, they remain a fearsome proposition. However, this Brazilian side is a little different from the ones we are used to seeing on the world stage. Their all out attacking approach has given way to a steadier more efficient approach and has shown some disciplined at the back. They have relied more on power and counter-attacks rather than the quick movement and pulse-racing football they are usually known for. Nevertheless, they still have scored 33 goals in their qualifying campaign and they are going to play expansive, open football with a lot of guile with Kaka at the helm and Robinho with all his trickery being a nightmare for defenders. (read more about team Brazil)
North Korea’s campaign has relied heavily on their defense. Goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk kept 10 clean sheets in their 16 qualifying matches. They play an extremely closed game; keep things tight, and can be a very physical opponent. Coach Kim Jong-Hun generally keeps the formation of 4 at the back and 5 in the middle of the park, making ‘not conceding goals’ as their top priority and trying to score goals on the counter-attack. The employ to strikers in the team one of whom plays in midfield while soaking pressure from the opponents. This game could just see them do that all day long. An Yong Hak will be their holding midfielder who will responsible to break Brazil’s play and good luck to him for that.Their tactics are easily manifested as they have included only 4 forward thinking players in their 23 man squad. (read more about team North Korea)
With these styles in play, it would be foolish to expect anything else but a one – sided game with the Brazilians dominating possession, carving out the best chances and doing most of the running for the match. The Koreans would be looking to soak the pressure for as long as they can and hoping they could find a lucky break ar the other end. Brazil in all likelihood with all the creative talent at their disposal would quell the Korean defense and it could be one of the most one-sided affairs if the five time champions could get a break-through early on. Simply put it is going to be attack v/s defence.
Luis Fabiano v/s Ri Kwang-Chon
Luis Fabiano can be described as the complete modern centre-forward. In recent times he has displayed his best form for Brazil, winning the ‘Golden Boot’ in last year’s Confederations Cup. For North Korea, every player would be a defender but Ri Kwang-Chon Ri is the most likely to mark Fabiano and thus he shoulders a major responsibility.
Kaka v/s An Yong Hak
Kaka is one of the best midfielders in the World. Coming at the back-end of a disappointing season with Real Madrid, this is just the perfect opportunity for him to rise back to the zenith. An Yong Hak normally acts as a shield for the back-four and carries out the dirty work. Arguably, this is going to be the biggest challenge of his career.
Robinho v/s Ju-ii-ri
Robinho has a lot to prove. After a disappointing stint with Manchester City, he was loaned out to Santos in January. He appears to have regained his magical touch with the Brazilian club and will be hoping that he reproduces similar form for the national side. Ju-ii-ri will have a difficult afternoon not only for Robinho’s trickery but also with Michel Bastos’ incessant runs down the left side.
Brazil (4-2-3-1) Cesar (GK), Bastos, Thiago Silva, Lucio, Maicon, Melo, Gilberto Silva, Robinho, Kaka, Elano, Fabiano
Brazil is likely to go with one striker up-front with the middle of the park being controlled by Kaka. Elano and Robinho are likely to be on the flanks, inter-changing their positions and making runs into the 18-yard box. Melo and Gilberto Silva will provide protection to the back four. Lucio and Thiago Silva should be first choice in the centre of the Brazilian defense with Maicon and Michel Bastos as full-backs constantly delivering threatening crosses.
North Korea (4-5-1) Myong Guk Ri (GK), Chol Jin Pak, Kwang Chon Ri, Nam Chol pak, Jun-ii-ri, Song Chol Nom, Pak Chol, Yong Hak An, In Guk Man, Hong Yong-Jo, Jong Tae Se
Jeong Hoon Kim will be relyinig on his defense going with four at the back and a strong defensive midfield unit parked in front of them. Song Chol Nom and Yong Hak An will need to work tirelessly to keep Kaka & Co. quiet. The Koreans are likely to put plenty of men behind the ball and play a hard pressing game.
Expect one-way traffic throughout the game and it could turn out to be a real hammering for the North Koreans. Kaka is likely to be in control of the midfield finding clinical passes to open up the Korean defense. Korea would do well to double team him, but that is unlikely to change the result.
Predicted Scoreline: Brazil 3 – 0 North Korea
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