For those who were complaining about lack of emotion, here it is. A second round full of emotion as I had imagined in this post. Maybe the net wasn't hit by the ball as many times as we would like to see, but, the World Cup is not only about a ball and the net. This first week was marked by historical moments that will stay forever on people's minds all around the World. Here are my top 10 moments of this World Cup so far:
10. Robert Green, England's goalie wrote his name onto the list of blundering England goalkeepers, after his gaffe in the game between England x USA
09. The noisiest World Cup ever, thanks to vuvuzelas
08. France was losing the game against Mexico, and Thierry Henry who is one of the best strikers in the world, sits on the bench. (can someone explain why, please?)
07. Drogba entering in the second half of the match, 11 days after he had his arm broken.
06. Serbia team listening their anthem as an independent country for the very first time in a World Cup
05. Slovenia won their first match in the history of World Cups (Algeria 0-1 Slovenia)
04. Greece scored and won for the very first time in the history of World Cups (Nigeria 1-2 Greece)
03. Switzerland celebration after beating Spain (Nothing against Spain, but it was an incredible emotion for the swiss)
In contrast to the festival-like atmosphere surrounding Brazilian and Portuguese supporters throughout the city, the mood was calm and understated in Koreatown today as Korea DPR prepared to square off with the number one ranked team in the world.
The friendly staff at Clinton's, located in the heart of Koreatown at Bloor and Clinton, described the crowd as "standing room only" for South Korea's first game against Greece last Saturday and were hoping for more of the same with DPR's debut today.
While I had no trouble securing a seat at kick-off, by the start of the second half most of the bar was filled with supporters of both teams, accompanied by several on-lookers watching from the street.
North Korea spent much of the first half successfully employing its staunch defencive tactics, particularly stifling the speed of the favoured Brazilians. While Brazil was in possession of the ball a staggering 66% of the time in the first half, much of this was spent in the middle-third of the field in an unsuccessful search for a hole in the North Korean defence.
When DPR did have the ball, there was no hesitancy throughout the line-up to shoot from all angles. While North Korean coach Kim Jong-Hun did plead with is team repeatedly to settle down in the offencive zone, it was clear that DPR was intent on testing Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar. Unfortunately for DPR supporters, this strategy lead to several attempts from difficult spots on the pitch.
The second half started with Brazil on the attack with a more familiar pace and style, unleashing a flurry of chances that culminated in a wonderful goal in the 55th minute by Maicon. While DPR keeper Ri Myong-Guk did accept responsibility for committing the cardinal sin of abandoning his near post, he could hardly be faulted given the extreme angle at which Maicon managed to find the net.
Shortly after Maicon broke through, Robinho sent in a lovely ball to a streaking Elano who had no trouble putting Brazil up 2-0. Elano's goal was met with a warm reception from Brazilian supporters both in the stadium and in Clinton's, as it seemed to signal that a Brazilian rout may be on. In a curious move, Coach Dunga rewarded Elano's effort by immediately substituting for him with Dani Alves.
Despite having fallen behind 2-0, North Korea managed to maintain poise and retain their defensive discipline for the rest of the half. This hard work was rewarded in the late stages of the match when veteran Ji Yun-Nam broke through the Brazilian defence and scored DPR's first World Cup goal since 1966. Ji's effort was met with a loud cheer throughout Koreatown, with even Brazilian supporters appreciating Korea DPR's valiant effort throughout.
Having avoided an Australia-like embarrassment in their first game, Korea DPR should head into their next match against Portugal with a fair bit of confidence. While DPR are undoubtedly still the underdogs in the group of death, today's strong showing should serve as fair warning to fans of Portugal and the Ivory Coast that were expecting an easy game against this hard-nosed group of North Koreans.
Having been drawn into a group that features names like Ronaldo, Kaka and Drogba, not much is expected from Jong Tae-Se and the rest of the Korea DPR squad. Jong, or "the Asian Wayne Rooney" to his supporters, is one of the few offensive bright spots on a team known for its defensive play.
In fact, North Korean supporters shouldn't be surprised if their team lines up in a 5-4-1 gridlock formation, especially against free flowing offensive teams like Brazil and Ivory Coast.
Unlike its democratic neighbour to the south, Korea DPR has had limited experience on the World Cup stage. This year's tournament marks only the second appearance in the World Cup for the "Chollima" (Pegasus), although its previous trip was quite noteworthy.
By upsetting Italy 1-0 in the first round of the 1966 World Cup, the North Korean squad became the first Asian team to move past the first round of a World Cup Finals. In fact, that trailblazing squad even managed to build a 3-0 lead against Portugal in their knockout stage match-up, before ultimately succumbing 5-3 to the eventual third place finishers.
While such inspired feats of football are certainly not expected of Korea DPR in this year's World Cup, it should be intriguing to see how North Korea's more highly touted opponents react to the Chollima's frustrating defensive style. Their frustration should only mount as the first round progresses and goal differential becomes increasingly critical in the Group of Death.
Toronto is home to people from all 32 countries vying for the 2010 World Cup — and the most passionate soccer fans among them will be here, blogging about their countries’ performance throughout the tournament June 11 to July 11.
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