The game of their lives

From the BBC:

Seven survivors of the North Korean World Cup team that beat Italy in 1966 have arrived in England to revisit the scene of their triumph.

Against all the odds, the North Koreans reached the quarter-finals having been adopted by the people of Middlesbrough where they played their group matches.

North Korea arrived in England unknown and unwanted.

In 1966 there was only one place in the finals for the whole of Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Africa boycotted the finals because there was no guaranteed place, leaving Australia and North Korea to contest the spot.

With no diplomatic ties, the qualifiers took place in Cambodia, with North Korea overwhelming Australia 6-1 and 3-1.

Horror then admiration

The British Government was aghast and even considered not issuing visas to the winners, but relented.

The Koreans lost their opening game 3-0 to a hard Russian side, but earned the love and respect of the people of Middlesbrough.

Those fans were even more delighted with a 1-1 draw against Chile.

The deciding match was against the might of Italy.

Five minutes before half-time, a ball headed out of defence found Pak Doo-ik, who took the ball off Giovanni Rivera and hit a powerful shot to beat the goalkeeper.

Sensational games

It was the biggest upset in 36 years of the World Cup.

More sensations followed when North Korea took a 3-0 lead against Portugal in the quarter-finals.

But in the end their naivety let them down, and Eusebio scored four in their 5-3 defeat.

North Korea went home as heroes, the Italians were pelted with rotten tomatoes, and the impact of that defeat still survives.


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