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Asian Classics: DPR Korea vs Italy (1966 FIFA World Cup Finals)

Kuala Lumpur: Asia's finest have had their fair share of stunning results at FIFA World Cup Finals but the honour of scoring the first famous victory for the Continent belongs to DPR Korea.

The East Asians stunned the world when they beat powerhouse Italy 1-0 in a 1966 Group Four tie to become the first nation outside of Europe and the Americas to seal a place in a FIFA World Cup quarter-final.

Pak Doo-ik scored what remains one of the FIFA World Cup's most famous goals, but it was team effort which took DPR Korea through to the last eight where they again amazed before losing 5-3 to a Eusébio-inspired Portugal.

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The structure of the FIFA World Cup in 1966 was vastly different than it is today.

DPR Korea had their path to the Finals in England made considerably easier by the mass withdrawal of all the other Asian teams, and also the Africans, in protest against the allocation of only one place between the two continents.

DPR Korea still had to play-off against Australia, but this presented no problem as they won 6-1 and 3-1 to qualify for England and embark on - what was for them at that time - something of a venture into the unknown.

Their preparations for the big event were not particularly extensive, either, as they played only a couple of warm-up matches in eastern Europe on the way west, and they arrived in England as a completely unknown quantity.

They were drawn to be based in Middlesbrough, in north-east England, a hotbed of football enthusiasm, where they struck an exotic figure in comparison to their more worldly group rivals from the USSR, Chile and, especially, Italy.

But the Teesside fans are known for their support for the dark horse and the locals' hearts were won over in the first match as the Koreans resolutely resisted the Soviet might for 30 minutes before going down 3-0.

Their growing popularity then had a tremendous boost as captain Pak Seung-zin grabbed a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Chile.

But Italy were always expected to be a completely different proposition for the Koreans. The Italians, with star players such as Gianni Rivera, Giacinto Facchetti and Sandro Mazzola, were among the tournament favourites, and their perfected application of the catenaccio defensive tactics made them extremely difficult to penetrate.

They were a little uncertain after having lost 1-0 to the USSR following their initial 2-0 defeat of Chile, but confidently anticipated to beat the Koreans to advance to the quarter-finals.

But the Azzurri were in for a shock and the local fans, who had adopted the Koreans almost unanimously, were to witness one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history.

From the start, the small, deft Koreans proved generally too quick and lively for the Italians and played like a team inspired.

Moreover, Italy were down to 10 men after only 34 minutes, Giacomo Bulgarelli injuring himself in fouling Pak Seung-zin. DPR Korea were on top, and Italy struggling.

Three minutes before half-time, Pak Seung-zin beat Rivera to a high ball and headed back towards the Italian goal. The ball came to striker Pak Doo-ik on the edge of the Italian penalty area, he moved forward and released a shot from just over 15 yards. Goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi was too slow to get down to it, and was beaten for the only goal of the match.

Italy sweated and heaved to get back into the game but could not break down the Korean resistance, as Myung Rye-hyun's charges hung on resolutely to their lead.

The final whistle came from French referee Pierre Schwinte and both sides could hardly believe what had happened - while the fans, delighted with their new favourites, celebrated a most improbable victory.

DPR Korea went on to a quarter-final at Goodison Park, in Liverpool. There, 51,780 fans wondered if they were going to see another sensation as Pak Seung-zin, Li Dong-woon and Yang Seung-kook scored three Korean goals in the first 22 minutes, much to the delight of a few thousand fans from Middlesbrough who had come to cheer on their adopted heroes.

But as the Koreans, somewhat naively perhaps, continued to attack, Portugal's star striker Eusebio had his finest hour - scoring four goals and creating another to give Portugal an unforgettable 5-3 victory.

To their credit, the Koreans took their defeat well, happy and amazed to have made it to the last eight, and aware that they had already achieved something special.

Pak Doo-ik (above right, 2005 photo) himself felt the significance of that moment went far beyond beating Italy.

“When I scored that goal, the people of Middlesbrough took us to their hearts,” he said. “I learnt that playing football can improve diplomatic relations and promote peace."

Sources:, AFP

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