(Reuters) – Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz plans three-phased assault on what he expects to be a highly defensive North Korea on Monday as he plots a course through Group G into the last 16 of the World Cup.
After their goalless draw with Ivory Coast and a daunting clash with Brazil still to come, Monday’s clash with the tournament’s rank outsiders will make or break Portugal’s chances of progress.
A win is obviously essential but Queiroz said the need for a boost to their goal difference can only be factored in once the foundations are set.
“It is an extremely important game, decisive for the final placings. It’s all or nothing as far as we are concerned and the players are well aware of that,” Queiroz told reporters after his team trained at Green Point stadium on Sunday.
“We will play tomorrow with three issues, which we can’t confuse.
“First, we have to play entertaining, enthusiastic and rapid football, much faster than against Ivory Coast, to find a way to win.
“Then we have to score goals but we can’t even talk about that until we have scored one. Then, after all that, we can look at the league table.
“It is a phased approach, we cannot start at the end.”
Having seen North Korea defend so diligently against Brazil Queiroz knows his team will have to be creative to find a way through.
“We have to play with our intelligence,” he said. “Sometimes it is said that the most direct route is circular and we certainly can’t spend the game banging our heads against the wall.
“Ivory Coast defended from midfield but from what we saw against Brazil, North Korea will sit much deeper. We have to use our technical prowess, especially in the last third, to force them into errors.”
One of the keys best suited to unlocking such a massed defense is a player with outstanding individual skill and Queiroz is fortunate that in Cristiano Ronaldo he has one of the absolute best in that department.
Though he has not scored an international goal for 16 months Ronaldo remains confident that having got the first game out of the way, the 2006 semi-finalists will find their feet.
“The most difficult phase is over, we were anxious in that first game, many of the players had not been at a World Cup before and we knew it would be complicated,” he said.
“There are fewer pressures now, I think we have overcome the greatest barrier and will win tomorrow.
“As for me, the goals will surface tomorrow or next year, I have faith. If I don’t score that’s not the end of the world, the issue is for us to win.
“If it’s a large margin then all the better but 1-0 will be satisfactory because we don’t fear Brazil. They are a great team, five-time champions, but we are going to face them in the last game with the belief we can win.”
(Editing by Nigel Hunt)