CAPE TOWN // Forty-four years after their original, epic showdown, Portugal and North Korea will replay one of the World Cup most memorable matches tonight, when they meet in a Group D encounter in Cape Town. Their quarter-final clash at Everton's Goodison Park was a classic of the 1966 tournament in England. After North Korea had disposed of Italy in the previous round, a crowd of 51,000 in Liverpool - enchanted by the Asian side's fast, attacking style - roared on the underdogs. They were not disappointed.
With 20 minutes on the clock, the plucky Asian side had raced into a two-goal lead and a semi-finals spot beckoned when Yang Sung-kook added a third in the 22nd minute. The Portuguese, however, hit back. Eusebio, the reigning World Player of the Year and a man known as the "Black Pearl", took centre stage. The Benfica legend scored four goals - two either side of the break - as Portugal ran out 5-3 winners.
"It has been many years now, but it is always a good memory," Eusebio said earlier this week. "At the time I did not even dream of going on to the pitch and scoring the four goals. Every professional footballer has his day during his career, and that was my day and we managed to turn it around." How Portugal need a hero now. The current, underachieving side has netted only four times in their last five international matches and failed to score at all in their last two. But even as the somewhat mysterious North Korea side - only three of their squad play overseas - promise revenge, Eusebio is not convinced they will achieve it. Portugal, he insisted, will have done their homework.
"I think North Korea was even more unknown back then than now. There was no media then like there is today and we were taken completely by surprise," Eusebio said. "Korea has already proven against Brazil that it's not a weak team and we have to be very determined, very quick moving the ball around, solid in defence and, of course, the players need to find the inspiration to show on the pitch the talent they possess. I believe we will win."
Much of Portugal's inspiration and goal-scoring prowess will come from Cristiano Ronaldo, the team captain and the most expensive player in football history. Ronaldo smashed a long-range effort against the crossbar during Portugal's cautious opening match against the Ivory Coast, but he did little else. Still, the Real Madrid forward is the danger man - a fact acknowledged by the Koreans. "Ronaldo is better than Eusebio," said Jong Tae-se.
An Yong-hak, the midfielder, said Portugal would be tough because everyone "knows Ronaldo is the best player in the world". To prove it, Ronaldo - much like Eusebio did all those years ago - must rise to the occasion. Deco, the Portugal midfielder, was ruled out the game yesterday because of a recurring left hip injury. Carlos Queiroz, the coach, said he still hopes Deco can recover for the team's final group match against Brazil. "At the training session yesterday, he complained about left hip pains," Queiroz told a news conference. "He's had this before, there was no improvement today, so our medical team recommended that he shouldn't play."