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Stylish Portugal thrash North Korea 7-0

By Mitch Phillips

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Portugal enjoyed their biggest ever World Cup victory when they overwhelmed North Korea 7-0 in Group G Monday to end the Asian side's hopes.

Ronaldo got on the scoresheet at last as the Portuguese put themselves in prime position to accompany Brazil into the second round after a scintillating display of attacking football.

Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz had said he would approach the game in three stages -- win, score goals and then look at the standings -- and his players followed the plan to the letter.

Goals by Raul Meireles in the first half, Simao Sabrosa, Hugo Almeida and Tiago in a seven-minute blitz early in the second, and further strikes by substitute Liedson, Ronaldo and Tiago again secured the win that took them on to four points.

"It was a great display, good goals, great attitude. We needed a moment like this, a well-played game so that the motivation and confidence can be even bigger now," said Queiroz.

"It's a big result, but it's another game and we still haven't won anything yet. Now we have to think of qualifying for the next round, one game at a time, try to win the next one with the same ambition with which we approached this game."

Portugal are now two points behind already-qualified Brazil, who they meet in their final game, but more importantly have boosted their goal difference so much that Ivory Coast need to score a hatful in their final game against the Koreans.

The Ivorians, beaten 3-1 by Brazil Sunday, have one point and a draw for Portugal in their final game would in any case guarantee that Queiroz's side progress to the last 16.

North Korea's amazing journey, though, has suffered a terminal blow and coach Kim Jong-hun said he took responsibility for the heavy defeat for "not planning the right strategy.

"...our players, I think, played to their full potential," he said. "However, tactically speaking, I think it fell apart so we couldn't block their attacks and that's why they scored a lot of goals.

RELENTLESS RAIN

North Korea had earned widespread praise for their battling defensive effort against Brazil but, contrary to most predictions, they were far more positive Monday.

Conditions were made treacherous by relentless rain and with defenders slipping and the ball skidding, both sides unleashed shots from long range at every opportunity.

After 25 minutes of their famous 1966 quarter-final North Korea led 3-0 before eventually losing 5-3.

This time, though, it was Portugal who struck first as Tiago, drafted in for the injured Deco, rolled a beautifully weighted ball into the path of Meireles who struck it hard and low beyond Ri in the 29th minute.

That took the edge off Korea and it was one-way traffic after that with the match settled by a trio of well-made goals.

Ronaldo, desperate to end his 16-month goal drought, hit the bar after 70 minutes before Liedson smashed in the fifth 10 minutes from time. Ronaldo did not have to wait long for his goal, though, although he had a bit of luck when it came.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)