Frosty Brazilians finally warm up
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Brazil's Lucio (3) fights for the ball with North Korea's Jong Tae-se during World Cup play at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg. (REUTERS/Christian Charisius)
JOHANNESBURG - With the thermometer hovering around minus-one C at a frosty Ellis Park Stadium, the five-time World Cup champions understandably took a while to get warmed up in the chilly conditions that greeted them for their opening game of South Africa 2010 against North Korea.
But on an evening more conducive to long johns than shorts, the Brazilians found their game in the second half, scoring twice in the final 45 minutes to post a well-earned 2-1 victory over their pesky opponents.
Led by the magnificent footwork of Robinho, who spent much of the game magically dipsy-doodling around North Korean defenders, the Brazilians gained momentum as the game went on, not to mention regaining the feeling in their frozen feet.
"It wasn't our best match, but at least we got the win. That's what matters now," Robinho said.
While six Brazilian starters shrewdly wore gloves out on the pitch, at least there were no excuses about the cold. Or the ball. Or the vuvuzelas.
In fact, how fans could continue to blow those horns in the icy winds was truly remarkable.
It's one thing to do it at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium on a snowy November day during a CFL Western Conference final. It's quite another to maintain a constant wail of vuvuzela noise in wind chills that reached minus-four, especially for Brazilians who aren't accustomed to such conditions.
Neither, for that matter, are Canadian journalists. Not in the month of June.
But the Brazilian players and their fans are intent on capturing a sixth World Cup. Mother Nature is just another opponent manager Dunga and his troops must dispose of.
In the dingy dimly-lit streets outside the stadium after the game, one Brazilian supporter had stripped his shirt off and was joyously dancing in celebration of the victory. We're not certain if his nifty moves were the result of years of cutting a mean rug or simply the fact that he was freezing without his top, but the guy was pretty co-ordinated either way.
The same can't be said for North Korean goaltender Myong Guk Ri.
In a tournament that quickly is being dominated by goofy goaltending gaffs, add Ri's name to the list after his screwup allowed Maicon to put Brazil up 1-0 at the 55 minute mark.
Ri's positioning was awful on the play. Maicon was almost on the end line when he fired the shot, which Ri didn't even get a hand on.
And so continues the series of goaltending blunders here in South Africa.
In Monday night's Italy-Paraguay match, Paraguay goalie Justo Villar completely whiffed on his attempt to grab Simon Pepe's second-half corner, allowing a wide-eyed Daniele De Rossi to deposit the ball into the empty net for the equalizer in a 1-1 tie.
On Saturday, England's Robert Green butchered a shot that earned him the label "Hand of Clod" back in England, the turning point in a 1-1 tie with the U.S.
Then there was the flub Sunday by Algeria goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi, who allowed a Robert Koren 20-yard shot to brush off his arm and into the net, handing Slovenia a 1-0 win.
Brazil widened it's lead to 2-0 in the 72nd minute, this time on a thing of beauty. Robinho's perfect pass was gobbled up by a streaking Elano, who found the far corner past a helpless Ri.
The North Koreans made it close with a late goal by Yun Nam Ji, but it would not be enough.
Not when the powerhouse Brazilians are just starting to warm up in this tournament.