15 June 2010 – North Korea’s Glorious Defeat

On 15 June 2010, North Korea marked their return to the World Cup with an impressive showing against Brazil, albeit in a losing effort.

In 1966, their only previous tournament, they delivered a shocking 1-0 first-round upset of Italy before falling to Portugal in the quarterfinals. That set a high standard for their return forty-four years later, secured on the back of a defense that conceded only five goals in fourteen qualification matches.

They continued that performance in their opening match against Brazil, at least for the first half. Playing with a back line of five defenders, they prevented the Brazilians from getting a good look at the goal. Only Maicon got a shot on target in the first half and that one was handled comfortably by keeper Ri Myong-Guk. It was a surprising performance, as most observers expected Brazil to run riot over the North Koreans.

Brazil finally cracked the defense in the second half, however, with Maicon scoring in the 55th minute, then Elano doubling the lead seventeen minutes later. North Korea's Ji Yun-Nam (pictured) got a goal in the 89th minute for a final scoreline of 2-1. It was North Korea's closest margin of the tournament, followed by a 7-0 hammering by Portugal and a 3-0 loss to Côte d'Ivoire.

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