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Top 10 World Cup memories: No. 9 - Portugal 7 North Korea 0

Ronaldo jumps over North Korea's goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk before scoring Portugal's sixth.
Ronaldo jumps over North Korea's goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk before scoring Portugal's sixth.

In this special 10-part series, ESPN's Jayaditya Gupta, who has attended every World Cup since 2002, recalls his favourite matches from the tournament. At no. 9, it's Portugal's rout of North Korea in 2010, where Cristiano Ronaldo left a lasting impression and North Korea's misery extended well beyond the scoreline.

The context

Portugal came into this game off a goalless draw against Ivory Coast while North Korea, in their first World Cup in 44 years, had kept Brazil down to a 2-1 win.

The match

The clich├ęd game of two halves; the first was relatively even, with Raul Meireles's goal the difference. The floodgates opened in the second, with two three-goal bursts at the start and at the end. A couple were sublime but most were the result of Portugal's sheer superior speed and skill. By the end the Koreans were ragged, torn apart as Portugal sought to ensure their progress to the next round. But, scoreline apart, the match per se isn't what is memorable.


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World Cup History: 2010

32 teams in 32 days: Portugal


The memories

First, Ronaldo. This wasn't his best performance but, at 25, he was hitting his peak. He still had the terrific pace, and to that he'd added power - and, crucially, focus. Fewer step-overs, less show and more substance. He was a blur at times, not only because of the driving rain. With his shooting technique, it seemed the Jabulani - the tournament ball that goalkeepers hated because of its exaggerated swerve - was made for him.

My notes recall one shot by him early on, with the ball taking an S-shaped route before being grabbed by a relieved 'keeper. When he finally scored, after five team-mates had entered the score-sheet, it was in typically dramatic fashion - chasing the ball into the area, stumbling over the onrushing keeper, the ball flying up and landing on the back of his head. Then, he either controlled it or it fell kindly for him - depending on whose version you read - to volley home. Just another day in a life less ordinary.

After the tournament, there were several stories of the North Korea team being publicly and officially humiliated on their return home.
After the tournament, there were several stories of the North Korea team being publicly and officially humiliated on their return home.

But the match wouldn't have been half as memorable, certainly in hindsight, without North Korean involvement. Covering the North Korean team for this match was unlike any other media engagement in my World Cup career; there didn't seem to be any North Korean journalists travelling with the team and their training session the day before the match had an air of tension and mystery, watched over by several well-built men in tracksuits who didn't seem to be part of the coaching staff. After the tournament, there were several stories of the hapless coach, Kim Jong-Hun, and the team being publicly and officially humiliated on their return home; within a month FIFA pledged an inquiry into the reports.