Portugal moved one step closer to the second round with a 7-0 win over North Korea Monday in Group G action at the FIFA World Cup from Cape Town.
The main storyline
That's more like it.
After labouring to a 0-0 draw against Ivory Coast in its opening match, Portugal poured on the style Monday, putting on a stunning offensive exhibition against a North Korean side renowned for keeping it tight at the back.
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For the first time in this tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo demonstrated why he is one of the best players in the world, effectively pulling the strings of an awesome Portuguese attack that ripped North Korea to pieces with ease.
Indeed, the Asians had no answer against Portugal's slick and destructive passing game, and they looked every bit of their FIFA ranking, 105th in the world.
Unlike their previous meeting in the 1966 quarter-finals, when North Korea squandered a three-goal lead and lost 5-3 to Portugal, this was far from a classic.
It was a mauling, a complete whitewash of the North Koreans, who become the second team (after Cameroon) to be eliminated from the tournament.
A lot of pressure was on Ronaldo before this game. The Real Madrid star was far from spectacular in Portugal's qualifying campaign, and hadn't scored a goal for his country in a competitive game in the past two years.
What this result means
Brazil leads Group G with six points and has already wrapped up a spot in the second round. Portugal sits second in the group with four points, ahead of Ivory Coast (one point) and winless North Korea.
A win or draw by Portugal in its final game of the group stage, against Brazil, would see it move on to the round of 16. The Ivory Coast is still mathematically alive, but it would need a big win (and a Portuguese loss to Brazil). It would also need to overcome the massive goal difference advantage that Portugal holds (+7 to -2).
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The winning goal
North Korea thwarted the Portuguese up until the 29th minute when Tiago and Hugo Almeida played a lovely give-and-go sequence on the edge of the box. The ball eventually landed at the feet of Raul Meireles, who fired a low shot under goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk.
Turning point of the game
Although Portugal took a 1-0 lead into the halftime break, North Korea was still in the game, but that changed when Simao Sabrosa found the back of net in the 53rd minute. Sabrosa's goal opened the floodgates, as Tiago and Almeida scored and Portugal led 4-0 after 60 minutes. Liedson, Ronaldo, and Tiago scored in the final minutes to complete the rout.
Man of the match
Ronaldo will garner all of the headlines, but Meireles was just as brilliant for his country, scoring the opening goal and making some dangerous attacking runs off the ball.
Goal of the match
All seven goals were fantastic, but the first was the best.
The Portuguese perspective
"This is a great result for us. We have to continue now." — coach Carlos Queiroz
The North Korean perspective
"Tactically speaking, we fell apart and we couldn't block their attacks. It was my fault for not playing the right strategy and that is why we conceded a lot of goals." — coach Kim Jong Hun
Portugal takes on Brazil in Durban on June 25 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET), while North Korea meets Ivory Coast on the same day in Nelspurit (CBC Bold, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET).