By Calvin Palmer
So far, the opening matches in the World Cup Finals have yet to produce a shock that reverberates not only in the competition but throughout the football world.
This afternoon the mighty Brazil take on an unknown quantity in the shape of North Korea and the stage could well be set for an upset.
Brazil are notoriously slow starters but gain momentum with each game played, a momentum that has carried them into seven World Cup final games and five World Cup wins.
It will come as no surprise that the bookies have made Brazil the second favorites to win the 2010 tournament outright. But only second favorites?
It seems coach Dunga, who captained Brazil to their World Cup victory in 1994, has attracted criticism for trying to alter Brazil’s style and placing greater emphasis on defense.
A lot of the star names have disappeared and the critics have rounded on Dunga for not utilizing the rich footballing talent his country possesses.
“The criticism is not unjust,” Dunga says, “but it is just a point of view. The criticism is always that we are defensive, but we have scored over 100 goals, conceding only 30.
“We are a balanced team. Sometimes the experts are wrong. Germany were criticized in qualifying, but they scored four goals [against Australia].
“It does not matter what people say. It is what happens on the field.”
In less than hour, the world will know.
For those with long World Cup memories, North Korea are always associated with their 1-0 defeat of Italy in 1966 at Ayresome Park, a result that dumped the Italians out of the competition at the group stage. Goal scorer Pak Doo-Ik’s name has since passed into the annals of World Cup history but is not one to be said out loud in a bar in Rome or Milan.
On paper, this afternoon’s game has a Brazilian victory written all over it. But World Cup games are not played on paper. It will be the actions on the turf of Ellis Park, Johannesburg, that determine whether North Korea continue their reputation for causing World Cup shocks.
[Based on a report by The Daily Telegraph.]