Two squads vastly different in talent will meet on June 21st, when Portugal battles a surprising North Korea side in Cape Town.
The North Koreans weren’t even expected to score a goal this tournament, yet they’ve already conquered that feat in their first match against the best team in the competition. Their opening fixture against the Brazilians proved to be quite the revelation as they played them to a 0-0 score at halftime. In the end, a 2-1 result was a very positive result for the underdog squad, and will look to replicate their performance against a dangerous Portuguese side.
Although Portugal is favored to advance past the group stages along with Brazil, they certainly didn’t play like it in their opening match. They were often outplayed and outworked in their first fixture versus the Ivory Coast, and struggled to generate concerted offensive attacks. They lacked creativity and flair along the wing positions, two areas in which their injured midfielder, Nani, could have helped them dearly. Nonetheless, they will be fully expectant of obtaining three points against a feisty North Korean team.
Portugal vs North Korea Odds:
North Korea (+940)
Keys to the Game:
For the North Koreans, it’s simply more of the same. They played about as well as you could’ve expected against a world-class team from Brazil, and if they stick to their defensive tactics who knows what could unravel against Portugal. Their strengths are a superb team discipline, and a great focus on their own third of the pitch. Against a Portuguese side loaded with offensive talents, they will be forced once again load the box with players, in an attempt to secure a desirable 0-0 result. If the Koreans are to get offensive chances, star forward Jong Tae-se will have to capitalize on them. He is the only player on the team capable of ruffling any feathers along the Portuguese back-line and could be plying his trade somewhere in Europe next year if all goes well.
Aside from Cristiano Ronaldo’s rocket of a shot that bounced off the post, the Portuguese really didn’t garner all that many chances in their opening match. Coach Carlos Querioz attributed his squad’s timid start to the intricacies of playing in your first game at the World Cup. “In an opening game, you take fewer risks. You don’t throw everything into attack,” Querioz claimed. However heading into this all-important second match, Querioz knows his team’s attacking game will have to be at its best. Against a weak North Korean side, no other options exist except to win and do so convincingly. In a group where goal differential is sure to matter, the Portuguese should be focused on putting plenty of goals into the North Korean net, and beating their staunch defensive abilities. Already, the media back in Portugal has hammered the team claiming that they play too boring of a style, and don’t take the necessary risks to succeed. Even his own players, most notably their star midfielder Deco, has publicly lashed out against the tactician. Something that Deco may be regretting, as the Portuguese bench boss may sit him out against the North Koreans. Querioz has heard the complaints from all around him, and it is up to the defensive-minded coach to let the reins off of his players, and allow them to display their superb attacking qualities.
What to Expect:
This match will plot a talented Portuguese offensive struggling to score against a North Korean side unaware that scoring is how to win. The Koreans will defend for all 90 minutes, and would be perfectly content with a 0-0 result. That said, the talented Portuguese have aspirations of their own and amid controversy with coach Querioz’s tactics, look for his squad to put on an offensive display against North Korea. Possessing one of the most dominant players in the game in Cristiano Ronaldo, he will be able to cruise by his inferior adversaries in this match, and propel his country to the round of 16. The first few minutes of this game will be imperative to each team’s morale and motivation. The longer the game stays close, the more it will favor the Koreans as visions of a monumental result will dance in their heads. Meanwhile, Portugal will realize the importance of getting off to a fast start, perhaps scoring an early goal to diminish any talk of a North Korean miracle, and focus on putting two or three tallies on the board.
Portugal vs North Korea Match Prediction: Portugal 2 – North Korea 0
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