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Brazil vs. North Korea: Kim Jong Il's soccer soldiers hold firm, deny Brazil goal fest

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Andre Penner/AP

(Read caption) Brazil striker Robinho (at left, center) served up as beautiful an assist as you're likely to see in this World Cup during today's Brazil vs. North Korea game

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It is perhaps emblematic of a World Cup with so few goals and so little action that the mighty Brazil struggled to win its opening match against the 1000-1 outsiders North Korea.

After a first half in which the Communist revolutionaries gave as good as they got against the Tropical Consumerists, Brazil opened the scoring 10 minutes into the second half with a goal from Maicon, whose shot sneaked in between the keeper and the post. A few moments later Elano, who provided the pass for that goal, turned goalscorer when he clinically slotted away an inch perfect pass from Robinho.

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The floodgates threatened to open but Kim Jong Il's soldiers stood firm and got a goal back in the 89th minute when Ji Yun Nam latched on to a long ball and lashed it past Julio Cesar. It was a well-deserved goal that gave the Koreans some solace from a performance that was far from disgraceful.

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Overall, though, it was a poor game and a disappointing performance from Brazil, the joint favorites to win a record sixth World Cup.

Brazil expects victory at World Cup time and the country was awash with yellow and green. Soccer, or more accurately, the World Cup is as much a social occasion as a sporting one here. Government offices, private businesses and schools all closed early giving people a half day in order to watch the game.

Brazilians love to watch the game together, with lots of beer and lots of shouting (or shrieking from the female viewers), perhaps especially on days like today when the team makes its first appearance in the tournament.

This team, however, packed with journeymen and reserves and players many Brazilians don't even know, let alone love, is far from being a true Brazil side.

I've seen a few world Cups in Brazil but have never seen such lethargy before a tournament and I've never heard so many Brazilians say they don't care if Brazil win.

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Coach Dunga has managed to make Brazilians care a bit less about football. This team, thanks to a coach who is as defensive-minded as he is media unfriendly, has a long way to go before Brazilians take them to their hearts. Days like today won't speed that process up any.

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