Brazil huffed and puffed last night against a well disciplined and hard working North Korea. The winning margin was far less than many had anticipated and the Brazilians looked laboured at times. Yet they produced two of the best moments of the World Cup so far.
Robinho’s incisive pass for Elano to score Brazil’s second was one of the most creative we’ve seen and the opening goal from Maicon was a thing of real beauty. The full back made countless runs down Brazil’s right hand side and when he was played in by Elano it looked as if a cross was the only option.
Not so. He hammered home a brilliant shot between the keeper and the near post. Quite deliberate, in my view, and immediately commentators spoke of Marco van Basten v Russia. Then they wondered if he meant it. Even now public opinion is divided. A poll on the Guardian has the Ayes at 55%, the Nays at 45%, yet it’s not the first time Maicon has scored a goal like this.
For me though it was a wonderfully instinctive piece of football and definitely the goal of the tournament so far. That it was difficult is beyond question, the fact that it went in means it wasn’t the ‘impossible angle’ the doubters have been talking about. Maicon deserves credit for bucking the safety first trend of this World Cup. He could have hit the side netting or put it out for a throw on the other side and been criticised for not playing more sensibly, but when we see a footballer do something as extravagantly brilliant as that we should rise to applaud, not cast doubt.
When Dennis Bergkamp scored his incredible goal against Newcastle there were the same questions. Did you really mean to do that? Bergkamp’s answer, ‘of course’. And why should we doubt him?
My cap is well and truly doffed to Maicon this morning. There are those who may never believe he meant to do what he did. And I feel a bit sorry for them, writing his goal off as a fluke means they didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did. And in this World Cup we can’t afford to be too choosy.