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Shades of 1966 as Portugal meets North Korea

Cape Town: Portugal and North Korea meet
tomorrow in a reprise of one of the most famous games in World
Cup history.

The remarkable 5-3 quarterfinal win of a Eusebio-inspired
Portugal over North Korea at the 1966 World Cup continues to
resonate as one of the greatest games ever in football`s
premier tournament.

North Korea is making its first World Cup appearance
since, and after a respectable 2-1 defeat to Brazil in its
opening game, the Korean side must strive for at least a draw
to keep alive ambitions of reaching the round of 16.

Portugal, which drew 0-0 with Ivory Coast in its Group G
opener, needs a win, given its last group game will be against
mighty Brazil.

"We know we can improve. Things will be different on
Monday," said striker Liedson after the game against Ivory
Coast.

"You`re always nervous in the first World Cup game. We`ll
be calmer in the second one."

Reclusive North Korea played with great composure against
Brazil, before succumbing. Coach Kim Jong Hun said the team
had gained confidence from the match against Brazil, despite
the loss.

But having manfully resisted the multi-pronged Brazil,
the North Koreans are only looking in one direction to see
Portugal`s threat - Cristiano Ronaldo.

Striker Jong Tae Se compared Ronaldo favorably with
Eusebio, whose four goals in that 1966 quarterfinal ended
North Korea`s fairytale run.

"Ronaldo is better than Eusebio," he said. "He is a more
skillful player both tactically and technically."

Midfielder An Yong Hak said the clash with the Portuguese
will be tough because "the whole world knows Ronaldo is the
best player in the world."

Several players at the World Cup are hoping to strengthen
their claims to being the world`s best. So far, only
Argentina`s Lionel Messi`s has lived up to the billing. Like
England`s Wayne Rooney, the jury is still out on Real Madrid`s
Ronaldo.

After from rifling one ball onto the post from long range
against Ivory Coast early on, he was near invisible for the
rest of the game. His most notable contribution otherwise was
a yellow card.

Ronaldo has the eyes of his country and the world on him.
The Real Madrid forward hasn`t found the net for his country
in an official game since the 2008 European Championship.

"Of course I want everyone, including Cristiano, to
score. But the most important thing is a victory. It doesn`t
matter who puts the ball in the net," said Portugal Carlos
Queiroz.

"I just have to focus on one thing: winning our next
game. We have to get through."

Form analysis aside, the game will be an event in itself,
with the teams having waited 44 years to meet against after
that famous 1966 meeting.

Both Portugal and North Korea made their debuts on
soccer`s biggest stage that year, and their standout
performances in England have endured in national lore. North
Korea upset Italy 1-0 at the tournament, becoming the first
team from Asia to advance to the quarterfinals. Portugal
unexpectedly got as far as the semifinals.

What has lingered longest in the memory is Portugal`s 5-3
win over North Korea in the quarterfinals, regarded as one of
the greatest comebacks in World Cup history.

By the 23rd minute of that match, North Korea - as much
an unknown team then as it is in South Africa - was leading
3-0. Four goals in just over 30 minutes by Eusebio set the
Portuguese on the path to an incredible comeback and
guaranteed their place in soccer history.

The slogan on the side of North Korea`s team bus in South
Africa, where the reclusive country`s team has come once again
into the world`s view with a second World Cup appearance,
clearly states the country`s intentions: "1966 Again! Victory
for DPR of Korea!" it says, using North Korea`s official name,
the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea.

Only three of the North Koreans play overseas, and the
team has made few international appearances in recent years,
giving opponents little chance to study its strengths and
weaknesses.

PTI

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