Before South Korea and Turkey's fairy tale run in the 2002 World Cup, North Korea surprised the football world with an unexpectedly impressive show in 1966 and along with England, who were the eventual champions and playing at home, North Korean players became overnight heroes in their country. It is a story worth revisiting.
Incidentally, North Korea were the only Asian side in the 1966 World Cup after all the other teams withdrew to protest the decision to allow only one team from the continent. They reached there after defeating Australia in two legs on a neutral ground in Cambodia. Australia were not a force to be reckoned with but the North Koreans were drawn in a difficult group in the finals which included teams like Soviet Union, Italy and Chile. A tough campaign was on the cards for the World Cup's only Asian side.
Understandably, all the odds were stacked against a North Korea side led by Pak Doo-ik.
Unsurprisingly, they were handed a 3-0 thrashing by Soviet Union in their opener. But they recovered and drew with Chile in the following match with Pak Seung-zin being their first goal scorer of the event. The response was worth being lauded and the North Koreans bettered it four days later.
On 19 July 1966, the North Koreans had an uphill task ahead of them. They had to win against Italy to qualify for the quarter-final. Nobody gave them a chance but their skipper Doo-ik found the net in the 42nd minute and then his team held their own to register a famous yet unforeseeable victory. Thanks to their exceptional performances, they set up a quarter-final clash with Portgual.
High on confidence, North Korea traveled to Liverpool after playing all their group stage games at Middlesbrough.
Portugal's defence seemed to have no answer to North Korea's free flowing and fast attack. The favourites were three goals down just 25 minutes into the match. Surely, there's no comeback from here, or so thought many a football fan.
But Portugal's talisman Eusebio da Silva Ferreira hadn't given up.
Nicknamed the 'Black Pearl', Eusebio responded to North Korea's dream start with a goal in the 27th minute. And he added three more in the next thirty minutes. 'Portugal 5 : North Korea 3' read the final scoreline, with Eusebio scoring four of the five goals — two penalties — to script one of the finest comebacks in World Cup history.
North Korea were ousted out of the tournament by
Portugal Eusebio's brilliance, who was the eventual top-scorer of the tournament.
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Updated Date: Jun 07, 2018 22:27:59 IST