Portugal 7-0 North Korea
Portugal routed DPRK in inclement conditions at Green Point Stadium, Cape Town. Portugal’s goal of qualification from the group stage would potentially come down to their goal difference versus that of the Ivory Coast and they quickly signaled their intent.
The North Korean set-up that had proved quite effective in stifling Brazil was replaced by a more attacking set-up, 4-5-1 becoming 3-5-2.
Both teams opened with some slick passing on the notably zippy surface. Portugal had the best of the early exchanges with Ricardo Carvalho hitting the post from a corner. Ri Myong Guk came to meet Tiago’s thumped corner but was unable to divert it. Carvalho was on hand to power a header against the post.
In an entertaining, end-to-end opening half North Korea showed tidy passing and set up a fine long range effort from Cha Jong Hyok. The defender’s powerful strike just swerving wide of Eduardo’s goal.
Portugal were exhibiting far more ambition than they did against Côte d’Ivoire and opened the scoring with a wonderful move. Tiago threading a beautifully judged pass through the North Korean defence, taking three Koreans out of the game in the process, in to the path of Porto’s Raul Mereiles who wound up before powering his shot under Ri Myong Guk.
The goal ended North Korea’s resistance. The team which had so valiantly harried Brazil and shown commendable control and passing in the opening thirty minutes here, immediately sank and allowed the Portuguese to control the game from thereon.
They were able to end the half only a goal down but it wasn’t long into the second half before they conceded again. Breathtaking interplay between Raul Mereiles and Hugo Almeida, brought into the side in place of Liédson, allowed Simão to advance on goal where he produced a neat finish.
The third followed soon after. Portugal circled the North Koreans seemingly fixated on securing their passage to the Round of 16 on goal difference. Coentrão, Benfica’s highly rated left-back, curled in an excellent cross to the unmarked Hugo Almeida who justified his selection with a headed goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo was excelling in his free-role in the second half. Carlos Queiroz unleashed the Real Madrid galactico after keeping him mostly on the left in the opening period.
Ronaldo was on hand to offer an assist for the fourth. The Ballon d’Or winner darted forward to retrieve a ball by the byline. He was given options by Hugo Almeida and Tiago who were sprinting towards the penalty area. Ronaldo chose the latter. He rolled a pass towards the edge of the penalty area where the Atlético Madrid midfielder was able to place the ball past the now beleaguered Ri Myong Guk.
The star wingback in this group is undoubtedly Maicon, although the Brazilian would have been pleased to produce a performance of the magnitude of that given by Coentrão this afternoon. The talented leftback was relentless. He constantly overlapped his wingers and looked to get involved in almost every attack. He very nearly added a goal to this consummate outing. Ronaldo, wreaking as much havoc as possible on the Koreans, played the leftback through at an angle. Coentrão’s effort just missing the target on this occassion.
The Associated Press reported that this match would be the first live broadcast of a World Cup game in the demagogic totalitarian state. The state broadcaster may well have shut down the feed as Liédson added the fifth with one of his first touches. The North Korean defence was visibly fatigued at this point, and this tiredness manifested itself after a botched clearance bobbled up to Liédson who did not fail to convert the easiest of opportunities.
Cristiano Ronaldo had not scored for Portugal in nearly two years and had come close several times in the first eighty minutes, even hitting the crossbar with a trademark strike from distance. His goal did come but not in his usual swaggering fashion. Ronaldo pounced upon a loose ball following a tackle just outside the penalty area. Ri Myong Guk attempted to challenge the Portuguese star but the ball ended up rolling along Ronaldo’s back and off the top of his head before it fell to his feet. He tapped in Portugal’s sixth and his smiles emphasised both the comical nature of the goal and his relief at having finally ended a long running goal drought.
Tiago added a seventh before the end but by now the scoreline had little importance. Portugal will now surely join their former colonial power in the last sixteen. The Portuguese press had slated their national team before the tournament but they will have had little to criticise here. Portugal played a fast paced, clinical game of football, albeit against questionable opposition. They will now face the Seleção with the top spot in the group at stake.