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Brazil leads 'Group of Death' after 2010 World Cup debut

Brazil overcame a solid North Korean defense to win in the debut of the so-called 'Group of Death.' Group mates Ivory Coast and Portugal finished scoreless, while a late New Zealand goal saved a point against Slovakia.

Luis Fabiano controls the ball

Brazil emerged at the top of Group G

In the World Cup debut of the so-called 'Group of Death' - formally known as Group G - Brazil emerged on top after its 2-1 win over North Korea.

Perennial World Cup favorites Brazil dominated possession in the first half but a resolute North Korean defense kept coach Carlos Dunga's squad from finding the back of the net.

Brazil kept up the pressure in the second half, continuing to probe North Korea's defense but being turned away every time.

That changed in the 55th minute. Brazilian midfielder Elano played a through-ball to defender Maicon, who fired a nearly sideways shot from less than a meter from the end line. The ball slipped between North Korean keeper Ri Myong Guk and the near post before curving over the line and into the goal.

Robinho jumps past a North Korean player

North Korea was on defense for most of the game

The Brazilians added a second goal in the 72nd minute. This time it was Elano who took the easy shot following a precision cross from Robinho.

If history is any guide, it was only a matter of time before one of Brazil's attacks made it through: the Brazilians have scored at least one goal in every group stage match of the World Cup since 1978, when they drew 0-0 against Spain.

North Korea pulled one back near the end of the game as forward Jong Tae Se laid down a header in front of defender Ji Yun Nam, who booted the ball over Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar to score in the 89th minute.

Drogba back in action

Despite playing a hard-fought match on both sides, neither team in the other Group G match between the Ivory Coast and Portugal had a particularly high number of scoring opportunities, and the ones that did come along never resulted in a goal.

Didier Drogba screams after breaking his arm

Drogba's broken arm didn't keep him out of the World Cup for long

One highlight of the game for the Ivory Coast was the return of their star captain, Didier Drogba. The forward broke his arm in a warm-up match against Japan 11 days ago, and his status for the Group G opener against Portugal was questionable.

Although Drogba didn't start, he was subbed in the 66th minute for Salomon Kalou, a teammate of Drogba's at FC Chelsea.

The Ivory Coast's next match is a big one in the group as they face Brazil. Portugal faces North Korea on Monday.

Better late than never

It took New Zealand literally the entire game, but their lone goal against Slovakia couldn't have come at a better time. Slovakia looked to be on their way to a 1-0 win as the referee indicated three minutes of injury time.

Winston Reid

Reid (left) celebrates his last-second goal for New Zealand

But New Zealand put together a hectic offensive sequence after two and a half minutes of injury time and managed to tie the game, salvaging a point in Group F with the 1-1 draw.

With the final whistle seconds away, New Zealand forward Shane Smeltz delivered a cross to defender Winston Reid, who connected for a header.

Slovakia's goal was nearly identical but came in the 50th minute. After slowly building up an attack, Slovakian forward Stanislav Sestak launched a curling cross that was right on target for Robert Vittek to score on a header.

The group's other teams, Italy and Paraguay, also played to a 1-1 tie on Monday night, meaning group F is all square with one point per team.

Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Michael Lawton

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