By AVI CREDITOR
Not many figured that Brazil would be tested or frustrated in its World Cup opener against North Korea.
It wasn't until Maicon reminded everyone what the Selecao are capable of that a bit of order was restored for the world's No. 1-ranked team.
The right back scored the game's opening goal on the acutest of angles, squeezing a well-struck shot from the back end of the penalty area into the far netting to give Brazil the lead in the 55th minute. Elano scored 17 minutes later off a pass from Robinho, and the favorites survived a late Ji Yun Nam goal to win at Ellis Park Stadium, 2-1, and grab three crucial points in the touted Group of Death.
Maicon made one of his trademark overlapping runs down the right side until he ran out of pitch. North Korea goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk left the near post unguarded, which allowed Maicon to sneak his shot into the goal.
Here are highlights of Brazil's narrow victory and the day's other results:
IVORY COAST 0, PORTUGAL 0
Didier Drogba's return to action nearly netted The Elephants a late winner, but the Ivory Coast captain misfired on his only scoring chance and the African side and Portugal played to a lackluster scoreless draw in rainy conditions at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Drogba, wearing a protective cast on his broken right arm, entered the match as a 66th-minute substitute, replacing Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou. He received a pass in the box to the left of the goal in the 90th minute but pushed his attempt well right while slipping to the ground.
His superstar counterpart, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, enjoyed success in the early parts of the first half, but his presence was less noticeable as the game wore on, as Portugal hardly threatened to crack the Ivorians' staunch defense.
Ronaldo's best chance came in the 11th minute, when he cut back his dribble to create space and launched a magnificent 30-yard shot that ricocheted off the left post. Portugal barely threatened after that, though Liedson's 58th-minute header forced Boubacar Barry into making a leaping save.
The Ivory Coast settled for the draw by electing to take a short corner instead of driving a ball into the box at the very end of second-half stoppage time.
Both teams trail Brazil by two points and have matches against Brazil and North Korea remaining in group play.
Here are highlights from the match:
NEW ZEALAND 1, SLOVAKIA 1
The All Whites scored arguably the most dramatic goal of the tournament to date, as Winston Reid headed home a Shane Smeltz cross at the death to steal a point for the underdogs at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Slovakia had gone ahead in the 50th minute, when Robert Vittek headed Stanislav Sestak's cross into the goal. Vittek appeared to be a step offside, but the flag stayed down and the goal stood.
Reid brought New Zealand level after Smeltz chipped a clever cross into the area. Reid, a defender, timed his run perfectly and scored in the third and final minute of stoppage time to secure his country's first-ever point at a World Cup.
Reid also did his job on the defensive end, denying Vittek of a second goal by cutting him off at the edge of the 6-yard box before he could fire from point-blank range.
New Zealand, Slovakia, Paraguay and Italy are all level with one point in Group F, with each having scored once and conceded once.
Here are highlights from the match:
Were you surprised at the trouble Brazil had beating North Korea? Disappointed in the Ivory Coast-Portugal match? How do you feel about Drogba playing with a broken arm? Jumping on the New Zealand bandwagon?
Share your thoughts below.