5 Things I learnt from Tuesday’s World Cup matches

1. Brazilian luck will always be called Brazilian design

Maicon’s goal was met by commentators as a moment of ‘Brazilian magic’. No doubt a smashing finish but more Brazilian luck than intentional magic and reminiscent of Roberto Carlos’ ridiculously acute angled stunner against Tenerife (also unintentional).

2. Robinho is still a baller

We seem to have forgotten all about Robinho after an acrimonious departure from English football. Yes, in a physical league especially away from home the flamboyant Brazilian often went missing. But his first season for City wasn’t a disaster at all; scoring 14 in 31 from a wide position, and netting a couple of memorable goals. His through ball for Elano’s tidy finish was nothing short of perfection.

3. No one wants to win, no one wants to lose

Portugal and the Ivory Coast should have been at the very least interesting. But, instead, it was as enjoyable as watching Sex and the City 2 in 3D with a group of budding socialite fashionistas. It was Ronaldo’s exocet of a right footed shot that saw this encounter simultaneously find life and its climax. As if needing confirmation, the match showed what all the opening group games have proven; the need to avoid losing far outweighs the desire to win. Many have said that African nations need to broaden their tactical decision making and Sven had his side sitting behind the ball, never forcing the pace unless a counter was on the cards. Is this the kind of tactical nous we want to see? And Portugal successfully tarnished my claims that they could be the dark horses of the competition because, without Ronaldo, they offer nothing. There remains a hint of a chance for them if the Real Madrid man finds his mark.

4. North Korea surprise everyone

Calling the North Koreans dogged, resilient and full of heart is not the full picture. They were disciplined, very aware and even – should I say it – posed a slight threat on the counter. For a team that was training in a local gym in Johannesburg they’ve performed miracles and the gargantuan underdog would probably be even more a hit with the public if they represented any other regime. Portugal and the Ivory Coast would do good to take notice because it took over an hour for the Brazilians to break them – and even then it was a freak opener – so maybe settling for a draw with one another will prove costly. North Korea to go through…surely not?

5. Who says there’s no place for amateurs in a World Cup?

The North Koreans were training in a public gym – a PUBLIC gym! – and gave the most successful team at the World Cup a good run. It’s hard to contextualise the sheer gulf between North Korea and the rest of the footballing world; they’re a nation completely intent on isolation so we know very little about them except leaks of a draconian dictatorship. But irrespective of regime their match yesterday was far from a disastrous defeat and allowed football another chance to transcend politics.

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