North Korea Tries To Duplicate 1966 Soccer Win

North Korea's soccer team faces Brazil in the first round of the World Cup on Tuesday. It's a David and Goliath match-up — like the last time North Korea played in the tournament. It was 1966, and the North Koreans beat powerhouse Italy.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

In World Cup Soccer today, the North Korean team takes on powerhouse Brazil. North Korea last played in the World Cup 44 years ago. Brazil has won the tournament three times since then. So it's a David and Goliath matchup, but one that the North Koreans have faced before.

DEBORAH AMOS, host:

In 1966, North Korea faced Italy - one of the favorites in the tournament that year. Just before halftime, a North Korean forward sent a shot under the lunging body of Italy's goalkeeper, for a one-to-nothing lead. Italy tried furiously to even that score, but the North Koreans held on. Theyve won, said the BBC commentator at the end of game. Good heavens, theyve won.

(Soundbite of broadcast)

Unidentified Sportcaster: North Korea has beaten Italy. What is going on here? They are delighted.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Sportscaster: The crowd is going on - look at that! This is fantastic. And this virtually means that North Korea will be in the quarter finals. And the crowd rising to them, and they're in tears. They're weeping tears of joy.

INSKEEP: Unbelievable upset for North Korea 44 years ago. The North Korean team lost its next game and exited the tournament. Little is known about what happened to the players once they returned home.

AMOS: The same mystery surrounds this year's team. Its players have limited international experience, and the team has mostly kept the cameras away from its practice facility. The Wall Street Journal reports few have even seen the team's jersey.

INSKEEP: Unlike most World Cup teams, who start wearing and selling their jerseys early, the North Koreans have yet to wear their official uniform in public.

You can read more about the World Cup by checking out our blog, Show Me Your Cleats, at NPR.org.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.

AMOS: And Im Deborah Amos.

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