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FIFA World Cup: Portugal hammer North Korea 7-0; last 16 place all but guaranteed

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cristiano_ronaldo2.jpgPortugal delivered a footballing master class to World Cup minnows North Korea as they thrashed the unfancied Asians 7-0 in a FIFA World Cup Group G fixture on Monday. Believe it or not, It could have been a lot worse for the Asian side considering the number of clear cut chances the Portugese carved out. The match was evenly balanced in the first half with both sides positive in their intent. Raul Meireles gave the Europeans the lead in the 29th minute, however, North Korea had been competitive in the opening 45 minutes and were very much in this contest at the break.

The second half though was a different story altogether as Portugal ran riot in the North Korean half. Goals from Simao, Almeida, Tiago (two), Liedson and Ronaldo vanquished any semblance of a fight from the Asian minnows. With this thumping 7-0 win Portugal have all but secured their foray into the last 16 while North Korea have expectedly crashed out of the World Cup in rather inglorious fashion. The Ivory Coast now have a mountain to climb to even think of a place in the next round; they would hope that the Samba boys from Brazil beat the Portugese by a good margin while they dish out a ‘Portuguese-esque' performance in their final match against North Korea on Friday, June 25th.

Portugal and North Korea locked horns today in Group G at the Green Point stadium in Cape Town. After Brazil's 3-1 annihilation of Ivory Coast last night, the onus was on Portugal to bang the goals and get the 3 points on board. Leaving anything to the last match (June 25th, Friday) against the 5-time champions might well have been too big a mountain for Cristiano Ronaldo & co. to climb.

However, three points against a resolute North Korean side wasn't supposed to be a cakewalk for Carlos Queiroz's men. The Asian minnows Koreans may be seen as the whipping boys of the so called ‘Group of Death' but their performance against Brazil in the opening round belied their inexperience on the big stage. And with the upsets increasing by the day, another shock result was potentially on the cards, especially when one considers that the Portugal forward line that has been lacking goals for quite some time now.

Portugal rung in four changes from their opening day fixture with Miguel, Tiago, Simao and Hugo Almeida replacing Paulo Ferreira, Deco, Danny and Liedson. North Korea on the other hand named an unchanged line up from their last match. The match was expected to be a battle between the Portuguese attack spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo and the stubborn North Korean defence.

Portugal started really brightly with chances galore in the opening minutes. Ronaldo had an early shot at goal in the 3rd minute as he looked to take advantage of a turf greased by some early showers. Then after a minute or two, Ricardo Carvalho skewed a shot wide off the goal from 10 yards. The Portuguese central defender was unlucky in the 7th minute when his well timed header came back off the post. North Korea made their presence felt in the Portugese half when Cha Jong-Hyok skimmed a shot agonisingly wide of Eduardo's goal.

With rain beating down on the turf, the players found it difficult to keep their footing while shots from distance increased in frequency. The Koreans came close in the 18th minute when a strike from Hong Yong-Jo from a rather acute angle was parried away by Eduardo straight to an on rushing Pak Nam-Chol, who headed it over the goal. The conditions were getting treacherous by the minute as both sides struggled to get a fluid game going.

Raul Meireles got the breakthrough in the 29th minute when he ghosted into the box and Tiago picked him up with a clever through ball. Meireles made no mistake in slotting the ball home as Portugal took the lead. The European giants stepped off the gas after the goal but retained their shape to keep the North Korean attacking forays in check. Cristiano Ronaldo was a shadow of his great self as the Asian side man marked him tightly and the Real Madrid star had difficulty in imposing himself on the North Korean defence. The first half came to an end soon after with both teams having a lot to play for. While the Portuguese had to ensure they get the 3 points and at the same time boost their goal difference; the North Koreans had to avoid a defeat to keep their rather unlikely hopes of qualification alive.

The second half started with Tiago testing Ri Myong-Guk in the North Korea goal with a dipping effort. Ronaldo repeated the dose in the 48th minute and Myong-Guk spilled it, only to see his defender hack the ball clear. Jon Tae-Se gave Eduardo at the other end a routine workout when his drilled free kick comfortably nestled in the keeper's grasp. The all action period was finally capped by a neat move from the Europeans with Simao stroking the ball into the back of the net in the 53rd minute. Raul Meireles was again into the thick of things as he slid in a perfectly weighted ball into Simao's path, who only had the goalkeeper to beat.

The Portuguese were sent into an ecstatic delirium minutes later when a wonderful move saw Hugo Almeida head the ball in after Tiago had delightfully fed left back Coentrao to cross the ball. There was no let off from the Portugese as Cristiano Ronaldo came to the party and laid the ball on a platter for an on rushing Tiago to tap in, in the 60th minute. With half an hour to go, the North Koreans were staring at an embarrassing loss as the Portuguese seemed to carry on in the same vein. Ronaldo again was in the thick of things when he picked out a glorious pass but Meireles missed an easy offering with his left footed effort wide off the mark. The Real Madrid star then picked up Coentrao's marauding run in the 68th minute but the left back couldn't find the target with his lob-cum-shot.

Ronaldo was all over the North Koreans and came close to getting his name on the score sheet when he blasted a shot in his inimitable fashion onto the cross bar with Myong-Guk well beaten. Then in the 72nd minute the ‘Galactico' hit one straight at the Korean keeper after Veloso had laid the ball perfectly for him. The 5 star performance was capped by a 5th goal by substitute Liedson in the 81st minute. Cristiano Ronaldo provided the icing on the cake when he broke his 16 month scoring duck with a goal in the 87th minute after a fine juggling act with the ball. Tiago then embellished the score with a superb header a minute from the end as Portugal recorded a huge win on the night - their biggest in World Cup finals.

The Portuguese had thoroughly overwhelmed the men from DPR Korea when the final whistle blew to signal the end of the Koreans' humiliation. Cristiano Ronaldo came into his own in the second half as he ran at the heart of the Korean defence and created chance after chance for his team. The European giants have now all but secured their place in the last 16 barring an unlikely thumping from Brazil in their final match or a goal fest from the Ivory Coast against North Korea.

Teams:

Portugal: Eduardo, Carvalho, Alves, Coentrao, Miguel, Tiago, Mendes, Meireles (Veloso 70'), Ronaldo, Almeida (Liedson 79'), Simao (Duda 74')

North Korea: Ri Myong-Guk, Ri Jun-Il, Ri Kwang-Chon, Pak Chol-Jin, Ji Yun-Nam, Cha Jong-Hyok (Nam Song-Chol 75'), An Yong-Hak, Pak Nam-Chol (Kim Kum-Il 58'), Mun In-Guk (Kim Yong-Jun 58'), Hong Yong-Jo, Jong Tae-Se

Portugal 7-0 North Korea
Meireles 29'
Simao 53'
Almeida 56'
Tiago 60' and 89'
Liedson 81'
Ronaldo 87'

Check out the Points Table

Also Read:

Brazil 3 - 1 Ivory Coast - Match Report

Trivia: Biggest wins in World Cup history - 1982 - Hungary vs. El Salvador 10-1, 1954- Hungary vs. South Korea 9-0, 1974- Yugoslavia vs. Zaire 9-0...Sweden, Uruguay and Germany have also picked up 8-0 wins!

File Photograph Copyright: Luis Vieira

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