Monday, June 21, 2010

Liverpool to Cape Town 44 years on

Today's Portugal v North Korea clash inevitably ignites memories of that crazy quarter-final in 1966 when lightning almost struck twice.

The North Koreans, leaving their closed country for the first time, had found a home away from home in Middlesbrough, especially after their unexpected 1-0 win over the fancied Italians.

Asian soccer had been unleashed on a world unprepared for it, and the wow factor only increased after they ran into a 3-0 first-half lead against probably the most talented team in the tournament, Portugal. Fans like my father who were at Wembley to watch England play Argentina, could not believe their eyes as the updates from the other quarter-final at Goodison Park showed the minnows were tearing apart one of the tournament favourites.

Alas for the hysterical neutrals, the Koreans' cavalier attacking style was outsmarted in the second half by a more wily team with an almost unplayable ace in Eusebio, who bagged four goals in a stunning comeback to send Portugal through 5-3.

The clash of soccer cultures and playing styles that day in Liverpool was the epitome of what the World Cup is about on the field. Would that today's reunion of the nations in Cape Town were as thrilling as that unforgettable match 44 years ago.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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