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Brazil await reclusive N.Korea

JOHANNESBURG, June 13- Brazil will use reclusive North Korea to launch their bid to escape their 'Group of Death' and go after a record sixth World Cup at Ellis Park Stadium here on Tuesday.The North Koreans, rated 105th in the world, are not expected to trouble the top-ranked Brazilians, who under pragmatic coach Dunga have to find a way out of Group G against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast.

Dunga’s emphasis on work-rate and defensive duties has left the supporters of the "jogo bonito" (beautiful game) fuming, but the World Cup-winning skipper is intent on forging the Brazil approach in his own image.

Former skipper Socrates has even gone as far as to suggest that Brazil could be knocked out in the group phase and has slammed their style of play under Dunga as an "affront" to Brazilian football culture.

Dunga lifted the trophy as captain in 1994 and now seeks to emulate Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer in garnering another win as coach.

Brazil, who last won the world crown in South Korea/Japan eight years ago, have never faced North Korea, who will be playing at the World Cup for the first time since their sensational debut appearance in England in 1966.

Back then the Koreans shocked the world with a 1-0 win over then two-time world champions Italy before going out after an epic 5-3 loss to Portugal in the quarter-finals.

The element of surprise will be missing this time, as Brazil under Dunga will have counted on victory over the Asian minnows as part of their overall strategy ahead of their crucial group games against Ivory Coast on June 20 and Portugal five days later.

"On taking over I demanded that every player in the squad up his game and my instructions have been followed to the letter," Dunga said.

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"To win a World Cup it requires Brazilian talent and the tactical care of the Europeans."

The expectation is always on the world’s most popular team to win in style and anything less than a win for Brazil in their opener will only ramp up the pressure from their fans and the Brazilian media.

The South African tournament also represents a watershed for 2007 world player of the year Kaka.

He is coming off a difficult injury-plagued season with Real Madrid but told reporters that his thigh injury was much improved.

"My condition is improving daily. The injury no longer bothers me. I think I’ll be fine for the start of the competition," said Kaka, who joined Real from AC Milan last summer for 65 million euros (78.5 million dollars).

"I am ready to be one of the leaders of the squad – although the team already has many leaders both technically and tactically."

For their part the North Koreans have been talking up their chances against Brazil.

North Korea earned their spot in South Africa by eliminating Saudi Arabia and Iran and they give little away with their determined defensive approach.

Their best-known player Jong Tae-Se hopes his team can change the image of the isolated nation and believes they could topple mighty Brazil.

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Striker Jong, who plays in Japan’s J-League, said: "We want to change the North Korean image. Our core mentality is like Germany, Germany’s spirit.

"We’re brave. We can win against Brazil. (What) everybody thinks about that game is we can’t win but we have a brave heart and brave spirits."


Luis Fabiano/Kaka against North Korean defence

The doughty North Koreans will need all their resilience and application to hold out the creative talents of striker Luis Fabiano and midfielder Kaka for 90 minutes. It ranks as one of the supreme challenges in world football and they will be striving to give as little away as possible.

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