North Korea vs Portugal has played each other twice in World Cup tournaments. Both times Portugal has been victorious. Both occasions have been unique matches.
1966 World Cup: Portugal 5 – North Korea 3
If England were the winners of the 1966 FIFA World Cup, it was Portugal who boasted the tournament’s outstanding individual performer.
In their first finals appearance, Otto Gloria’s side went all the way to the semi-finals, inspired by the brilliance of Eusebio.
This was never more apparent than in an unforgettable quarter-final against North Korea, where the Benfica striker and reigning European Footballer of the Year virtually single-handedly rescued his team from defeat, scoring four times as Portugal fought back from three goals behind to win.
The hosts apart, this Goodison Park quarter-final featured arguably the two best-loved teams of that English FIFA World Cup.
The Portuguese, with the stars of Benfica’s great 1960s team, had already earned a place in the Liverpool crowd’s affections with thrilling wins over Hungary and deposed champions Brazil.
As for the North Koreans, unknowns from a country shrouded in secrecy; they had provided the shock of the tournament against Italy in their previous match, Pak Doo Ik’s goal at Ayresome Park catapulting them into the quarter-finals and sending their opponents home to a barrage of rotten tomatoes.
If the North Korean team’s victory over Italy had awoken the world to the fact that the Asian team could play, it seemed some of Portugal’s players were still taking the message on board when the minnows hit them with a sensational strike in the first minute.
After a cutting move down the right, the ball came to Pak Seung Zin in the middle and let fire with his right foot. Amazingly, the ball picked up speed, soaring past Jose Pereira, off the underside of the crossbar, and in. The Koreans piled onto the scorer in celebration.
Best Loved Teams
Having won the hearts of the Middlesbrough fans in the group phase with their positive, fast-moving style, it seemed the underdogs now had most of the Goodison Park crowd behind them.
“When we played against Portugal, they supported us passionately,” Pak Doo Ik recalled many years later. For the opening quarter, Portugal found themselves chasing shadows.
After Eusebio had misplaced an effort at one end, the Koreans broke with a swift counterattack to the other.
When Pereira misjudged the ensuing cross looping in from the right, Yang Sung Kook, collecting the ball at the far post, slammed it low across the face of goal, and Li Dong Woon stepped in to score the Koreans’ second on the half-volley.
Two goals ahead after 22 minutes, the lyrics of the Asian team’s song – played in place of their national anthem, which for political reasons they could not use – were beginning to sound prophetic: “We can beat everyone, even the strongest team.”
North Korea Three Goals Up
After the restart, Eusebio angrily sizzled a free kick past a post, but three minutes later, it was 3-0.
Yang Sung Kook, attacking up the left, played a pass inside to Pak Doo Ik who fired a hopeful shot at goal.
The strike deflected back into the path of Yang Sung Kook, who had continued his run, and after working a shooting position, he buried the ball into the far corner.
Three goals down, Portugal goalkeeper Pereira had his head in his hands while teammates looked at one another accusingly.
Yet within two minutes of the restart, Eusebio had given Portugal a glimmer of hope.
Antonio Simoes picked out his Benfica colleague, ghosting past his marker and breaking into the box; Eusebio found the top corner.
In no mood for celebration, the No13 dug the ball out from the back of the net and raced back to the center circle.
Suddenly it was a different match. Only once in FIFA World Cup history had a team won from 3-0 down, yet the North Korean defense was now struggling to contain the player they called the ‘Black Pearl’.
With the half winding down, center-forward Jose Torres broke clean through on goal only to have his legs taken from him by a defender.
Israeli referee Menachem Ashkenazi pointed to the spot, and Eusebio stepped up, ramming it to the top corner before retrieving the ball urgently from the back of the net and heading back to the center circle.
Trailing 3-2 at the break, Portugal was level by the 56th minute.
Starting a move off in his own territory, Eusebio set off immediately on a run toward the goal, freeing himself of his marker in time to meet Simoes’ through-ball and fire a shot past Li Chan Myong.
Three minutes later, Eusebio made it 4-3, picking himself up and converting his second spot-kick of the afternoon after an exhilarating run down the left was ended illegally inside the Korean box.
With the North Koreans out of ideas, Eusebio’s corner supplied the final goal as Jose Augusto joined him on the crowded score sheet.
A young English boy could be seen chasing Eusebio around the pitch at the end, waving a newspaper and begging for an autograph.
His heroics had earned Portugal a place in the semi-finals, and although defeat followed against England, he would finish the finals with nine goals, the Golden Shoe, and the Portuguese with third place.
The North Korea team departed as heroes, their achievements as Asia’s first FIFA World Cup quarter-finalists long remembered – and surpassed only in 2002 when their southern neighbors reached the semi-finals on home soil.
2010 World Cup: Portugal 7 – North Korea 0
44 years after the famous day when North Korea led 3-0 before being blown away by a four-goal Eusebio blast, this was a re-run of one of World Cup history’s most famous matches.
Despite only being separated by Raul Meireles’ goal at halftime, Portugal scored six goals after the break, sparking their tournament into life and ending North Korea’s hopes.
North Korean hopes of a comeback were dashed in seven minutes by Simao, Hugo Almeida, and Tiago, followed quickly by Liedson, Ronaldo, and Tiago.
Although North Korea started brightly, Portugal was not forced to mount a comeback to win this time.
The First Goal
In the 29th minute, Tiago slipped a precise through ball into Meireles’ path, tucked a low shot past Ri Myong-Guk.
The North Koreans didn’t collapse instantly, but their defensive disorganization meant they were lucky not to concede more goals before halftime.
Simao put the game out of reach after the break by finishing off a neat move between Meireles and Hugo Almeida. Almeida headed home Fabio Coentrao’s cross to make it 3-0.
The North Korea team was in tatters and starting to argue with each other.
This match was the first time a live football game was broadcast on North Korean television.
Live Broadcast Is Down
However, the authorities pulled the broadcast when the fourth goal was scored. They reported that the game ended 4-0.
Then when the World Cup finished, it was reported in North Korea that Portugal had won the 2010 World Cup, not Spain. They convinced the people of North Korea that their 4-0 defeat was again the world’s champions.
Firstly the people of North Korea are unaware that Portugal scored another three goals. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the seventh goal and his first international goal in two years.
Weeks later, the authorities reported that Portugal had won the World Cup. So the 4-0 defeat ended up against the best team in the world.
TAP Portugal flight attendant Alvaro Leite visited North Korea and shared a humorous story about why this is the case.
While In Pyongyang, we were accompanied by a guide who spoke English; Leite told History Of Soccer. The young Cristiano Ronaldo is a true idol for many people in the country, and football is very important and popular.
The North Korea people were happy only to lose 4-0 to the World Cup winners. They were unaware that Spain knocked Portugal out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!