Preview: Brazil vs. North Korea
Dynamic and inventive offensive play are big reasons Brazil has a record five World Cup titles. A change in philosophy has it favored to win a sixth in South Africa.
Brazil looks to open this tournament in strong fashion when it faces upset-minded North Korea for the first time Tuesday in Johannesburg.
Brazil is the most decorated team at the World Cup due to a "Jogo Bonito" philosophy that stresses dominance through offensive creativity.
That’s not expected to happen this time after losing 1-0 to France in the quarterfinals four years ago.
A former defensive midfielder known for his intensity and tough marking, Dunga captained Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title and was on the team that was runner-up in 1998.
He’s now brought that toughness and strong defensive play to Brazil as coach, and the players prefer winning to entertaining.
"I want to win the title," defender Maicon said. "Regardless of playing with flair or playing ugly, the most important thing is to win. The most important thing is that on July 11 we are in the final, bringing the trophy home."
The change in style has already produced under Dunga, with Brazil winning the 2007 Copa America, the 2009 Confederations Cup and finishing first in South American qualifying for the World Cup. It also achieved wins against reigning world champion Italy, Portugal, Argentina and England, and the Brazilians are ranked No. 1 by FIFA.
"What Dunga has achieved with the national team cannot be questioned," midfielder Gilberto Silva said. "We have his trust and we are behind him."
Despite playing a more rigid style that stresses counter attacking, Brazil still boasts an array of offensive riches with Kaka expected to undertake the playmaking duties.
The midfielder has 27 goals in 78 games for the national team and has recovered from various injuries that hampered his first season with Real Madrid.
Brazil hasn’t lost its World Cup opener since falling to Spain in 1934, going 13-0-3 while winning seven in a row.
North Korea will try to end that streak in its first World Cup appearance since stunning Italy in 1966 and becoming the first Asian team to reach the quarterfinals.
Matching that appears to be nearly impossible with North Korea ranked 105th – the lowest in the tournament – and in a group that includes Portugal and the Ivory Coast.
"We know that all the players on the team are famous and that Brazil is the strongest team in the world," midfielder An Yong Hak said. "Our chances may not be that great, but we can’t say there’s no chance at all."
North Korea’s biggest advantage could be its mystery. The team, which qualified over Saudi Arabia on a tiebreaker, hasn’t competed in a major tournament since the 1992 AFC Asian Cup.
Forward Jong Tae Se, who plays for Kawasaki Frontale in Japan, scored twice in a 2-all draw with Greece on May 25. He has 15 goals in 22 games for the national team.