Portugal 7 North Korea 0

Portugal: Eduardo; Miguel, Carvalho, Alves, Coentrao; Mendes, Meireles (Veloso 70), Tiago; Simao (Duda 74), Almeida (Liedson 77), Ronaldo

North Korea: Myong-Guk; Jong-Hyok (Sung-Chol 75), Chol-Jin, Jun-Il, Kwang-Chon, Yun-Nam; Yong-Hak; In-Guk (Yong-Jun 58), Nam-Chol (Kum-Il 58); Yong-Jo, Tae-Se

North Korea were completely overrun by Portugal in Cape Town this afternoon, shipping seven goals as they crashed out of the tournament and saw the Portuguese all but book their place in the last 16 with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring his first international goal for two years in the process.

Queiroz rings the changes

Carlos Queiroz set his team out in the same 4-3-3 system that he deployed against the Ivory Coast last week, but made a number of changes to personnel to give the side a greater attacking emphasis against a North Korean side that proved difficult for Brazil to break down in their opening game. Miguel, a more forward-thinking defender, replaced Paulo Ferreira at right-back, with Tiago replacing Deco as the most advanced of the midfield three and Simao came in on the right flank for Danny who had a poor game against Sven-Goran Eriksson’s team.

The North Korean’s also kept faith with the system that they had used in their opening game, a 5-3-2 relying on defensive organisation to see them through, Coach Kim Jong-Hun seeing no need to make any changes to his line-up after a narrow 2-1 defeat to Brazil at Ellis Park.

Defensive incompetence

From the opening minutes of the game it became clear that the North Koreans were playing with a greater openness than they had done against Dunga’s team, pushing their wing-backs, Cha Jong-Hyok and Ji Yun-Nam, further up field in an attempt to create extra width in the final third. During the early stages of the first-half the Koreans impressed with their new-found attacking spark, Jong Tae-Se and Hong Yong-Jo both looking dangerous in and around the Portuguese penalty area.

Football Fans Know Better

However, in seeking to get forward more regularly the Koreans left themselves suicidally exposed at the back.

Once Raul Meireles had struck to put the Portuguese ahead the defensive organisation for which Jong-Hun’s side were lauded against Brazil completely dissipated and made proceedings far too easy for Queiroz’s men.

Perhaps carried away with their increased importance to the attacking phase, Jong-Hyok and Yun-Nam were continually caught out of position in the wide areas and brutally punished for their lack of positional intelligence.

Three of the Portuguese goals came as a direct result of the wide midfielders and full-backs getting in behind the wing-backs, with the Koreans struggling to cope with the overlapping runs of Miguel and Fabio Coentrao and their opponents’ pace on the counter-attack.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Simao were given increasing amounts of space and time on the ball as the match progressed, continually unmarked and given the freedom to run at he Korean defence and cross for Hugo Almeida and the attacking midfielders who broke forward very effectively all afternoon.

Portuguese running from deep

Although the wing-backs were particularly poor defensively, the trio of centre-halves also put in a disappointing performance and looking panicked in the face of some direct running from the Portugal midfield players. North Korea were overrun in defence by the runs from deep by the likes of Tiago and Raul Meireles, both of whom had terrific games for their country.

This running from midfield was the key feature of the Portuguese performance, the team attacking in numbers and overrunning the five defenders and one holding player – An Yong-Hak – that constituted Korea’s defensive unit. Runs from deep by Meireles and Almeida were central to Portugal’s first and third goals, with similar runs from Tiago contributing to the first and third as the Korean resistance crumbled during the second-half.

Portugal also pressed efficiently from the front and forced basic errors out of the Koreans when they were in possession, Jong-Hun’s players giving the ball away in dangerous areas far too often and punished by the goal of Ronaldo who capitalised on the poor control of Pak Chol-Jin to run clean through on goal.

Portugal all but in the last 16

This was a disastrous performance from the North Koreans, the polar opposite to the efficiency they showed against Brazil and a display that didn’t do justice to the collective abilities of their players. Portugal, on the other hand, have boosted their goal difference to such an extent that it would take a big defeat to Brazil and a similarly dominant win for the Ivory Coast over North Korea for them to miss out on the last 16.

Queiroz’s side were undoubtedly flattered by the abjectness of North Korea, but they certainly showed great improvement today and, despite the criticism of the team before the tournament, could be discovering their best form at the most opportune of moments.