Spectacular Portugal hammer North Korea
Portugal produced a spectacular performance of fluidity and flair to earn their first win of the World Cup in style against North Korea. Having failed to impress in their opening Group G stalemate with the Ivory Coast, Carlos Queiroz's side were under pressure to deliver against North Korea with a showdown against Brazil still to come. And they did that emphatically as Raul Meireles scored in the first half before Simao Sabrosa, Hugo Almeida and Tiago hit one apiece within seven second-half minutes. Liedson and Cristiano Ronaldo got in on the act before Tiago grabbed his second in the dying minutes.
Portugal came into the match hoping to boost their goal difference with the Ivory Coast, their main rivals to join Brazil in the next round, still to play a North Korean side who were excellent in their 2-1 defeat by Dunga's side in the first game. Queiroz made four changes, one of which was enforced due to Deco's hip injury and Tiago coming in. North Korea were unchanged. Portugal captain Ronaldo, without a competitive goal for his country in two years, had an early effort blocked. His side came close to a breakthrough in the seventh minute when Ricardo Carvalho was allowed to reach Simao's corner but saw his header hit the post and bounce away.
Jong-hyok Cha and Tae-se Jong had half chances for North Korea and a better opportunity then went begging after 17 minutes as Yong-jo Hong cut inside and when Eduardo parried his shot, Nam-chol Pak headed over. In the 29th minute the impressive Meireles opened the scoring. Breaking into the box, he was found by Tiago's clever ball and expertly drove the ball beyond Myong-guk Ri. Tiago had an early chance in the second half as his effort from distance was tipped over by the goalkeeper. Ronaldo blasted one over in a lively opening to the half, then saw Myong-guk Ri spill a left-footed effort soon after.
Jong's deflected drive from a free-kick was saved by Eduardo and at the other end Almeida failed to finish off a nice move down the left when he could not convert Fabio Coentrao's cross. However, it was 2-0 in the 53rd minute. Almeida held up a long ball for Meireles and when the midfielder saw Simao bursting into the box to his right, the pass perfectly set up his team-mate for a straightforward finish. North Korea were deflated and it was soon over as a contest. In the 56th minute Coentrao was put clear down the left and his perfectly-pitched cross found Almeida, who converted with the header. North Korea coach Jong-hun Kim sent on two substitutes in response but it was to no avail as Tiago added to the deficit, rushing forward to sweep home Ronaldo's cut-back from the left on the hour mark.
Meireles and Coentrao had further chances while in the 70th minute a fizzing Ronaldo shot hit the bar. Ronaldo kept plugging away as he looked to break his two-year barren spell before Liedson made it 5-0 four minutes after coming off the bench. Fellow replacement Duda whipped in a ball which Kwang-chon Ri failed to clear, allowing Brazil-born Liedson to hammer home on the turn. Ronaldo finally got his goal when Liedson capitalised on a defensive mix-up to put him through before he rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home and Tiago headed home his second to complete the rout in the 89th minute. * PA
Published: June 21, 2010 04:00 AM