Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Portugal destroy N Korea with sparkling football

By The Assam Tribune

CAPE TOWN, June 21 (IANS): Portugal exploded into life to demolish North Korea 7-0 Monday, taking a massive step toward qualifying from Group G and consigning the plucky communist nation to elimination from the football World Cup.

Midfielder Tiago was at the heart of a breathtaking performance - Portugal's biggest-ever win in a World Cup - that has laid down a marker for the other teams.

"That match showed we are in South Africa to write World Cup history," said striker Hugo Almeida, one of five Portuguese players to find the back of the net in Cape Town's Green Point stadium.

The result was all the more surprising given how Brazil, who defeated Ivory Coast 3-1 Sunday, struggled to break down the North Koreans in their 2-1 victory in the opening game.

For 29 minutes, North Korea looked like the team who had risen above their lowly ranking of 105th in the world against the Brazilians.

They gave the Portuguese a tough time, and if striker Jong Tae Se had shown a bit more pace or a better touch, they may well have taken the lead through two good opportunities.

But Tiago showed his class on the 29th minute, slicing the North Korean defence open with an wonderful through ball that Raul Meireles ran onto and buried with aplomb.

North Korea kept plugging away, and went in at the break still in the game.

Prior to the match, coach Kim Jong Hun had said he wanted to sweep away the disappointment he still felt from watching North Korea throw away a 3-0 lead against Portugal in the 1966 World Cup to lose 5-3.

Little did he know that Portugal were about to surpass the achievements of that Eusebio-inspired team - even without the influence of playmaker Deco, who missed the game with a hip injury.

The Europeans doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute. After a slick interchange of passes on the edge of the area, Meireles fed a ball into the area for Simao to slip it under the legs of Ri Myong Guk.

Carlos Queiroz's men finished off North Korea for good in the 56th minute, when Fabio Coentrao streaked down the left and crossed to Almeida, who headed across the run of Ri.

Tiago joined the scoring party on the hour, converting a Cristiano Ronaldo cross. And substitute Liedson, dropped after a poor performance in the 0-0 draw with Ivory Coast, made it 5-0 in the 81st minute.

The thousands of vocal Portuguese fans in the stadium were delighted, but they had to wait until the 87th minute to see what they had waited 15 months for: Ronaldo hitting the back of the net.

Ronaldo had gone eleven international matches without scoring, and when he cracked the crossbar midway through the second half, it looked as though his luck was still out.

But he could afford a grin of delight when a lucky ricochet off his back and then his head landed kindly to present him with an open goal.

The Portuguese captain called the goal "funny" later, but he won't care how it went in now the monkey is now off his back.

Tiago, to whom Ronaldo handed over his Man of the Match award post-match, saying the industrious midfielder was more deserving, completed the scoring in the 89th minute.

North Korean coach Kim Jong Hun, dignified in defeat, refused to blame his players.

"As a coach I think it was my fault for not playing the right strategies," he said. "I think that's why we conceded a lot of goals."

Kim said his team would pick themselves up and try to beat Ivory Coast in their final group game.

Portugal's massive victory has virtually assured them qualification: they would have to lose to Brazil by a good margin and watch Ivory Coast thump North Korea in the final round of Group G games.

But boss Carlos Queiroz refused to get too carried away.

"It was a great day for Portuguese football, now we are going to focus ... on the last game," he said. "We scored seven goals, but only managed to accumulate three more points."

Until this game, many had suggested Brazil were going to top the group with ease. But the Portuguese boss believes his side have a point to prove.

"We don't want Brazil to score any goals against us, because this puts our reputation and prestige in question," he said.

On the evidence of Portugal's stunning performance, it is perhaps Brazil who should be worried about their reputation.

Next Story