Before Portugal set sail for South Africa 2010, coach Carlos Queiroz dubbed his side Os Navegadores (The Explorers). It was a nickname given in honour of the nation’s famous wayfarers, men such as Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama, who respectively reached and then rounded the Cape of Good Hope back in the late 15th century.
Returning to the southern tip of Africa for their meeting with Korea DPR in Cape Town on Monday, Portugal’s modern-day pathfinders made some history of their own in racking up a 7-0 win, the biggest in their FIFA World Cup™ history.
The two sides had met once previously, ending in a famous 5-3 win for the Portuguese at England 1966, when the underdogs surged into a 3-0 lead before succumbing to the brilliance of Eusebio. The North Koreans will have less cause to remember their latest joust with A Selecção das Quinas, however. With the Pantera Negra (Black Panther) looking on contented from the stands at the Green Point Stadium, Quieroz’s adventurers whipped up a storm that their opponents were ill-equipped to withstand.
“Fantastic, just fantastic,” was the great Eusebio’s reaction when FIFA.com asked him for his views after he had congratulated the side in person. “That was one of the greatest wins I’ve ever seen from the national side. To score seven goals against a team that had given Brazil a lot of work shows the quality that Portugal have. Everyone’s over the moon.”
A clearly elated Eusebio, in reference to that meeting between the two sides over four decades ago, said: "It's difficult to make comparisons. You suffer a lot more when you watch games than when you play in them. Even when we went three goals down in that 1966 match, I didn’t feel as nervous as I did today, at least until we got the second goal, and then the third and the fourth, which came right after each other.”
Under some pressure after a disjointed 0-0 draw against Côte d’Ivoire in their Group G opener, Portugal’s nerves were calmed when Raul Meireles put them ahead just before the half-hour mark. The Porto man had played a crucial part in his side’s late charge to South Africa 2010, scoring the only goal of the second leg of their European Zone play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina, and he was delighted to spearhead another valuable win.
“It was a perfect goal and a perfect day,” Meireles told FIFA after setting his side on the road to victory. “It was far from easy for us in the first half but things started to go our way in the second and we managed to pick up a great result. You always feel happy when you score goals for the national team and when they’re important goals you feel even better. We’re going to savour this win now and then get ready for the next game.”