Portugal-North Korea a rematch of classic 1966 quarterfinal of World Cup

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reprise of 1966 classic at World Cup

JOHANNESBURG — Portugal and North Korea staged one of the greatest games in World Cup history, a match still talked about 44 years later.

The rematch comes Monday in Cape Town.

The remarkable 5-3 quarterfinal Portugal win featured perhaps the best performance by the great Eusebio, who led a comeback from a 3-0 deficit by scoring four times. North Korea is making its first World Cup appearance since then, and after a respectable 2-1 loss to Brazil in its opening game, the Koreans should carry some confidence into the match.

The slogan on the side of North Korea’s team bus in South Africa 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.

But 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.

Eusebio doesn’t think North Korea has the same element of surprise in South Africa that it brought to the 1966 World Cup, when it beat Italy to advance.

“We were taken completely by surprise,” said Eusebio, now a soccer ambassador with the Portuguese federation. He and 1966 teammate Antonio Simoes are in South Africa with the Portugal squad.

“I remember very clearly what Simoes said when we were 3-0 down. He kept saying, ‘As long as we don’t go four goals down, we’re still in with a chance,’” Eusebio said. “And he was right.”

Portugal, which drew 0-0 with Ivory Coast in its Group G opener (7:30 a.m.), needs to find some energy on offense, and will be missing midefielder Deco with a left hip injury.

“We know we can improve. Things will be different on Monday,” striker Liedson said. “You’re always nervous in the first World Cup game. We’ll be calmer in the second one.”

Another high-profile team that showed virtually nothing on offense in the opener will play Monday in the final set of middle games in the opening round. Spain takes on Honduras (2:30 p.m. at Johannesburg) in Group H.

Also in the group, Chile and Switzerland, both off wins, meet (10 a.m. at Port Elizabeth).

The European champions from Spain came to the World Cup as a co-favorite with Brazil. Anything less than a victory over the Central Americans would put the Spaniards in jeopardy of an almost unimaginable first-round exit.

Spain was tentative and lacked its usual creativity in a 1-0 loss to the Swiss. Coach Vicente del Bosque was heavily criticized for his lineup, including not starting striker Fernando Torres and not using midfielder Cesc Fabregas at all.

“I’ve been training for more than two weeks with my teammates and little by little I’ve forgotten about the injury,” said Torres, who is recovering from April surgery on his right knee. “It’s up to the coach. He decides.”

Defender Gerard Pique said Fabregas could provide what the Spanish were lacking in just their second loss in 49 games, both in South Africa. The other was to the United States in last year’s Confederations Cup.

“A lot of touch, the ability to get into the area, and goals,” Pique said of the Arsenal midfielder. “If the coach opts for him, he’ll help us very much.”

Del Bosque isn’t revealing much.

Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda is expecting the full force of a Spanish backlash.

“We should not be distracted by the (Swiss) result,” Rueda said. “As one of the favorites and having lost their first game, Spain will be even more determined.”

First place in the group could be determined if there is a winner between Chile and Switzerland.

“Nobody expected that we would beat Spain, but we did it and we have to forget this win,” said Swiss striker Blaise Nkufo. “We don’t want to talk about it anymore, just focus on the next game, next opponent.”

That would be the Chileans, who nearly won South American qualifying and looked strong in a 1-0 win over Honduras last week.

“Honduras gave us the responsibility of trying to win the game; we were the ones looking to get a result,” said Jean Beausejour, the Chile goal scorer in that match. “Against Switzerland, that’s going to change a bit. They’ve got a potent counterattack and it’s going to be a very even game.”

will not be displayed