Portugal silenced their critics with a scintillating display in this seven-goal humiliation of North Korea. Cristiano Ronaldo scored one and created another two, but in a rare display of sportsmanship he gave his man of the match away to Tiago. The rather less fashionable Atletico Madrid midfielder scored two of his own and was involved in all the goals.
For a North Korea side that had taken most of the plaudits in the 2-1 defeat to Brazil this must have been shattering. That this was apparently the first game ever to be televised live on the country’s state TV channel is a cruel irony after so spirited a performance against the greatest footballing nation in the world.
In the light of the draw with Ivory Coast, Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz correctly identified that progress from this group is likely to be decided on goal difference and played a young side full of pace and power. Deco made way – the Chelsea man apparently injured, but perhaps being punished for his outspoken comments after the Ivory Coast match – as did Paolo Ferreira, Liedson and Danny, who had been especially poor against Ivory Coast. It was a team set up to attack and boy did they do so.
They were almost ahead inside ten minutes – Ricardo Carvalho nodding against the post – but the chance came and went and North Korea were right in the game. They broke at speed and in numbers, Cha Jong-Hyok flashing a shot wide early on, and Jong Tae-Se, who had sobbed his way through the national anthem before the match against Brazil, must have been upset once again as he stole onto a loose ball that the keeper smothered before he could pull the trigger.
In fact it was looking like a very close game until Portugal broke the deadlock just before the half hour. Tiago got his first assist of the day with a perfect through ball that Raul Meireles slotted under the keeper. But the half finished 1-0 and North Korea were right in the game until it all fell apart eight minutes into the second half.
Meireles turned provider, playing a neat one-two on the edge of the box then feeding Simao to fire home. Just two minutes later it was three, the excellent Portuguese left-back Fabio Coentrao – of Benfica but on this evidence not for much longer – whipped in the perfect cross that Hugo Almeida met with a thumping header.
Kim Jong-hun made two substitutions but things went from bad to worse within minutes, Ronaldo breaking down the left and cutting back to Tiago on the edge of the area. The former Chelsea man calmly side-footed it inside the far post to make it 4-0 on the hour.
With the game won Carlos Queiroz brought on Miguel Veloso for the excellent Meireles, then Liedson replaced Almeida and made it five within five minutes. Ri Kwang-Chon made an awful mess of a low cross and Liedson couldn’t miss from six yards.
Portugal added two more in the final minutes, Ronaldo finally getting his name on the scoresheet with a comical goal. Through on goal he lifted it over the keeper, who got a touch on the ball on its way through. As Ronaldo staggered to regain his balance the ball dropped onto his back, then the back of the head, and just as he got his bearings it landed on his right foot from where he made no mistake. Tiago added a simple second goal with a glancing header to add insult to injury.
This result, not surprisingly, confirms North Korea’s exit. Portugal face a Brazil side bereft of Kaka on Friday afternoon and a draw will guarantee them qualification, and they could even lose and still qualify if Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Ivory Coast fail to outscore them against North Korea.