Brazil struggle past spirited North Korea

JOHANNESBURG - Maicon produced an astonishing goal out of the blue to set Brazil on their way to a 2-1 win over a stubborn North Korea and spare their blushes after a shockingly bad first-half performance on Tuesday.

The full back ran onto Elano's pass and somehow managed to blast his shot into the net from the acutest of angles in the 55th minute of the Group G match as Dunga's team scraped a win in the opening match of their quest for a sixth world title.

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Elano added another 17 minutes later for Brazil who were hugely disappointing with playmaker Kaka out-of-sorts.

Ji Yun-nam pulled one back for the North Koreans, going past two players and crashing home a left-foot drive in the 89th minute for a deserved consolation.

Until Maicon's strike, North Korea, making their first World Cup performance for 44 years, had looked capable of pulling off a result to match their famous 1-0 win over Italy in 1966.

The mystery men from the hermit state had spent over four months in a training camp in the run-up to the game and played with discipline, tenacity and no little skill on a freezing night at Ellis Park.

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Maicon said his career flashed before him when the ball went in.

"I though of everything which I went through to get to this moment," he told his reporters. "It was my first World Cup match - I didn't cry but I was very happy with the goal I scored."

Dunga said: "It's not easy to play against teams which close up shop like that. I'm satisfied but I want more, I want us to score more goals."

North Korea coach Kim Jong-hun was also content with his team's display. "We were very well prepared to fight, we defended very well," he said.

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In the first half, Brazil looked clueless as to how to unlock their defence and the Asian team, gaining in confidence, had looked threatening going forward.

It all started very brightly for Brazil, Robinho taking less than a minute to produce a dazzling run with his trademark stepovers and set up a shooting chance for Kaka.

But the former World Player of the Year took too long over his shot and An Yong-hak took it off his feet. A goal at that point could have taken the game on a very different course.

Instead, North Korea quickly grew in confidence and produced the first shot on target when Jong Tae-se's effort was easily saved by Julio Cesar.

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Mun In-guk even had the audacity to try and lob Julio Cesar from near halfway line although