Portugal arrived at this World Cup with some of the best players in Europe and a team that was less than the sum of its parts. The Iberians finished second in a weak qualifying group and they had to earn a spot via a playoff against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
It was the biggest win of the tournament so far and confirmed Portugal as serious contenders for the title. An added bonus was a goal for Cristiano Ronaldo in the dying moments that ended his two-year goal drought for the national team.
At this point there was no indication of the goalfest to come. North Korea ended the first half down only one goal, and appeared determined and looked capable of coming back.
The second half, though, was a different story. Portugal increased their lead in the 53rd minute and this time Meireles was the provider, threading an angled pass into the path of Simão Sabrosa for the Atletico Madrid striker to slot the ball home.
Three minutes later they grabbed a third goal with a beautiful move down the left wing that culminated with an inch-perfect cross from Fábio Coentrão to the head of Hugo Almeida who nodded the ball past the luckless Ri Myong-Guk.
Just four minutes after that Ronaldo cut the ball back to an on-running Tiago, who side-footed the ball into the net from the edge of the 18-yard box.
And Portugal kept coming.
Meireles and Coentrão were brilliant in pushing forward and Ronaldo always looked dangerous with the ball at his feet.
Meireles put another perfect Ronaldo pass wide and Simão should have done better with just the keeper to beat. Ronaldo himself was unlucky to see a 25-yeard strike ricochet off the top of the bar.
Substitute Liédson made it five in the 81st minute with his first touch of the ball. The Brazilian-born striker seized on a defensive mistake to crash the ball home.
That would have been Portugal’s biggest ever World Cup victory, but they were not finished yet.
Ronaldo got No. 6 in the 87th minute when he was fortunate to see a goalkeeper’s botched clearance fall perfectly for him to knock the rebound into the empty net (see video below). Just two minutes later, Tiago got his second and Portugal’s seventh with a nice glancing header.
It doesn’t get much better than this for coach Carlos Queiroz’s men.
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