By Mitch Phillips
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Portugal produced a sumptuous second-half performance to earn their biggest ever World Cup victory when a 7-0 thrashing of North Korea in Group G on Monday put them firmly on course for a place in the second round.
Cristiano Ronaldo ended his 16-month international goal drought but the damage had been done long before his late strike as the 2006 semi-finalists put themselves in prime position to accompany Brazil into the knockout phase.
Portugal's scintillating display of fast-paced attacking football also ended North Korea's hopes of progress.
Another clutch of three goals by substitute Liedson, Ronaldo and Tiago in the last 10 minutes had the substantial Portuguese following in seventh heaven.
It also emphatically ended the "Cape Town Curse" that had seen the city's three previous games produce dull draws and just two goals.
"It was a great display, good goals, great attitude," said Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz.
"It was a great day for Portugal and Portuguese football and now we will concentrate on the next game. Although we got seven goals we only got three points."
Despite his caution, Portugal's plus-seven goal difference makes the win effectively worth a bonus point.
They have four points to the six of Brazil and on the evidence of Monday's display will go into Friday's Durban clash full of belief that they can beat the five-times champions.
Ivory Coast, beaten 3-1 by Brazil on Sunday, have one point and need a Portuguese defeat combined with a massive win for themselves over Korea to have any hope. A draw for Portugal in their final game would guarantee Queiroz's side progress.
Monday's emphatic result looked unlikely as North Korea started with unexpected ambition and had one or two near misses.
Tiago, drafted in for the injured Deco, rolled a beautifully weighted ball to Meireles who fired home low and hard.
Portugal gradually took command after that and changed the dynamics of the match, and group, with three well-made goals.
As space began to open up, Portugal took full advantage with some devastating moves. Ronaldo hit the bar in the 70th before Liedson came off the bench to smash in the fifth after 81.
"My goal was funny but I'm very happy," said Ronaldo, whose last one for Portugal came in February last year.
"To score seven in a World Cup game is not easy, we played fantastic."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)