Sunday, July 19, 2015

19 July 1966 - North Korea Send Italy Pak-ing

On 19 July 1966, North Korea staged one of the World Cup's biggest upsets, beating Italy 1-0 in the first round.

After winning the World Cup in 1934 and 1938, the Azzurri went into decline and failed to progress past the first round in 1950, 1954, and 1962 (they failed to even qualify for the 1958 competition). Still, their 1966 squad included several of the era's most talented footballers, including Milan's Gianni Rivera and Inter duo Sandro Mazzola and Giancinto Facchetti. North Korea, on the other hand, were appearing in their first World Cup with a collection of semi-professional players who were relative unknowns outside of their home country.

Playing before a crowd of 18,000 at Middlesbrough's Ayresome Park, the Italians needed only a draw to advance into the second round, having already secured a win and a draw in their first two matches. After their early attacks were denied by Korean goalkeeper Ri Chan Myong, the Azzurri fell back into a defensive formation designed to win the critical point.

The Koreans, however, needed to win, with a loss and a draw in their first two matches. Taking advantage of Italy's reluctance to press, North Korea controlled the midfield and sent waves of attacks into the Italian area. They were rewarded with a 40th-minute match-winner from Pak Doo-Ik.

The goal sent Italy home, where they were pelted with eggs and tomatoes by an angry crowd upon their arrival. The Koreans advanced to the second round, but were eliminated by Portugal. They returned to obscurity in North Korea, sparking several rumors that they had been punished by North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, but the rumors were later proven to be false.

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