Saturday, November 07, 2009

Greatest World Cup matches: Italy-North Corea (1966)

The World Cups have, especially in the start, been the complete dominance of South America and Europe. Therefore, throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, the “rest of the world”, that is, Asia, Africa and Australia had to play between them for one meager qualifying spot.
For the 1966 World Cup in England, this “rest-of-the-world” spot went to the small and closed Communist dictatorship of North Corea. Although nobody knew anything of the team, there was not any big respect, and many spoke degrading of the Corean side, which also started unimpressively by losing 0-3 to the USSR, and then tying 1-1 with Chile, in what everyone thought would be their only point.
Italy on the other hand had defeated Chile and lost to the USSR, but nobody thought this would be a big deal since they basically only needed a tie against North Corea to progress to the next round, but nobody, even the North Corean officials (who had made plane reservations home on the day after the Italy match), thought that the Italians wouldn’t win.
However, as the match got underway in Middlesborough it immediately became clear that it would not be a walkover for the Italians: the Coreans were quick, controlled the ball well, and attacked eagerly the Italians all over the pitch, and there was nothing to tell that they were the underdogs. The Corean’s excellent style quickly won them many fans in Middlesborough, where the fans openly cheered for the Asians.
In a 2002 BBC documentary about the match, the journalist Dan Gordon explained how the North Coreans in fact played a quick style of football that had seldom been seen in the more physically focused European pitches: “"Football in 1966 was incredibly slow, and nowadays teams play like the Koreans did in 1966.”
Five minutes before the end of the first half Corea went ahead 1-0 on a goal by Pak-Doo Ik, who, as all players on the North Corean side, was a member of the North Corean army, and was promoted to sergeant after his feat in the World Cup.
Italy was stunned, and was unable to respond in the second half.
North Corea won, and had made it to the quarterfinal, in what is arguably one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history.
The Italian team did not act as good losers, and said that the Coreans had changed players at half-time, but that since all looked the same, nobody could tell the difference.
Understandably and deservedly, the Italian players were received with a hail of insults in Italy.

Match Stats:
  • 19th July 1966, Ayresome Park, Middlesborough
  • Attendance: 18,727
  • Referee. Pierre Schwinte (France)
Italy-North Corea 0-1
Goals:Pak Doo-Ik (41)

Italy: Albertosi; Facchetti, Janich, Fogli, Guarneri, Landini, Mazzola, Rivera, Barison, Bulgarelli (c), Perani
North Corea: Lee Chan-Myung; Shin Yung-Kyoo, Lim Zoong-Sun, Pak Doo-Ik, Han Bong-Zin, Oh Yoon-Kyung, Ha Yong-Won, Im Seung-Hwi, Pak Seung-Zin (c), Yang Seung-Kook, Kim Bong-Hwan

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