World Cup’s 101 Most Memorable Moments: North Korea upsets Italy

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World Cup’s 101 Most Memorable Moments: North Korea upsets Italy

By Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports Soccer Writer

Editor’s note: Each day between now and the kickoff of the first match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Nov. 20, we’ll unveil a different memory from World Cup history. The countdown from 101 continues with North Korea’s win over Italy in 1966.

Believe it or not, the most shocking World Cup upset of all time isn’t the amateur-heavy United States’ incomprehensible 1-0 win over then-mighty England in 1950. The honor actually falls to North Korea, which sixteen years later stunned Italy, the only country other than Brazil with multiple world titles to that point.

The 1966 World Cup in England was North Korea’s first, although it had participated as part of Japan at the first three events in the 1930s. Nobody expected much from the newbies as a standalone entrant. They expected even less when the Soviet Union demolished them by a 3-0 count in their opening game.

North Korea rebounded in their next group stage game, a hard-fought draw with Chile. That set the stage for their final first round match against the two-time champion Azzurri. Italy were the heavy favorites, but they had no answer after Pak Doo-ik gave the underdogs the lead just before halftime in Middlesbrough. North Korea went on to win both the match — knocking the Italians out of the competition in the process — and the group, making them the first Asian team to advance to the knockout stage. 

And they almost pulled off another miracle in the quarterfinals, squandering a 3-0 lead over Portugal by conceding five consecutive goals. North Korea didn’t return to the World Cup for another 44 years. They’re still looking for their second win.

North Korea makes history

North Korea became the first Asian team to progress past the first round in 1966.

One of the leading soccer journalists in North America, Doug McIntyre has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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