Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz admitted on Sunday their FIFA World Cup™ clash with Korea DPR is do-or-die and he will not be happy with anything other than a resounding victory.
Both teams go into Monday's match desperately needing to win with the Portuguese held to a goalless draw by Côte d'Ivoire in their Group G opener while Korea DPR lost 2-1 to Brazil. The North Koreans got almost everyone behind the ball to blunt Brazil's natural samba flair and they will need more of the same if they want to tame Portugal and their captain Cristiano Ronaldo.
Queiroz, a former assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, knows the stakes are high. "It is an extremely important game for us. It's all or nothing for us," he said, aware that Brazil await them in their third and final group game.
"The players know this and we all have the responsibility of knowing it is decisive for the final placings in our group. We are looking forward though with a great deal of ambition. We are only interested in winning."
Queiroz was criticised in the Portuguese press as his side struggled to make it to the finals having to come through the play-offs to reach South Africa. He is not underestimating the North Koreans, who did a stellar job of holding Brazil for 55 minutes, then sneaking a late goal to keep the pressure on.
We are only interested in winning.
"I want to register my respect for North Korea," he said of a reclusive team ranked 105 in the world to Portugal's three. "They are lower in the rankings but that is just on paper. In the World Cup, there are never any easy games and sometimes there are surprises. The 32 best teams in the world are present here, all are competent, ambitious and determined to fly their flag high."
Portugal will go into the match without influential playmaker Deco, who has a hip injury and did not train on Sunday. The Chelsea star has been the focal point around which Portugal's attacking exploits have centred since Luis Figo's retirement, and his absence is a big blow.
"Our medical team this morning assessed the Deco situation. He didn't train and he will not be able to play for us against North Korea," said Queiroz. "But we want to prepare him to play against Brazil."
The coach insisted the team would manage without him. "If you look at our qualifying matches, he played in some and some he didn't," he said. "We scored without him. Deco himself raised the issue not too long ago that all the players are important. We have a team that we believe can offer solutions to any problems. We have faith in our players and will do our utmost to win this match." Atletico Madrid's Tiago is expected to replace him.