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June 15, 2010

Solid, if not spectacular, win for Brazil

Schaerlaeckens By Leander Schaerlaeckens
ESPN.com
(Archive)

It wasn't the onslaught of goals that many expected, but Brazil got the job done. Here are the grades from its win over North Korea.

Tae Se Jong, North Korea: A-

Now we know why they call him the Asian Rooney. Tae Se Jong was a revelation. He didn't get a lot of touches on the ball thanks to North Korea's defensive strategy, but when he did, Jong always made the right decision. On those rare counterattacks, he played a teammate joining the sea of space to send the Brazilians scrambling.

Kaka, Brazil: C+

The Brazilian master of the counterattack wasn't at his best today. Sending several poor balls early on, he didn't seem to be on the same page as his teammates for much of the game. When Brazil finally broke through in the second half, he was involved in several good breakouts, but not enough to salvage a mediocre day.

North Korean defense: B+

You don't always get the chance to commend a back line that conceded two goals, but the North Koreans played as a cohesive unit and used the offside trap effectively. Until Elano scored to make it 2-0, the North Koreans gave away only half-chances. Sure, defending is made easier when most of the team is behind the ball, but containing the Brazilian attackers deserves plaudits no matter the method.

Robinho, Brazil: A-

Robinho was up to his old tricks, showing us the swagger and skills that had set him apart at Santos and Real Madrid. Setting up several good attacks and tormenting North Korean defenders with his swerving runs, he proved the perfect complement to the stationary Luis Fabiano. He was the best Brazilian on the day.

Maicon, Brazil: A-

We've seen Maicon score unlikely goals before, but this one defied nearly insurmountable physical odds, not to mention logic. That perhaps explains why he is keeping Dani Alves, one of the world's best defenders going forward, out of the squad.

Brazilian fans: A

No matter how cold it gets, Brazilian fans know how to root for their team. Not only did they dance and play their drums the entire night, they found an effective way to use the vuvuzela, blowing it not at nauseam but rhythmically. For that alone they deserve props.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at leander.espn@gmail.com.