During the 1966 FIFA World Cup, the North Koreans didn't just play to save face. They played to save their lives—literally.
The unknown North Koreans shock victory over Italy 1-0 was like the United States shocking England 1-0 in 1950.
The blame laid squarely at the feet of Italian manager Edmondo Fabbri, whose reputation was tarnished for the rest of his life.
Fabbri's severe underestimation of the North Koreans is part of footballing folklore, in the class of Brazilian manager Adhemar Pimenta resting Leônidas in the 1938 World Cup semifinals against Italy, who were the reigning world champions.
Fabbri had sent assistant Ferruccio Valcareggi to scout the North Koreans, and he came to the conclusion that the North Koreans were a "Una squadra di Ridolini (a team of clowns)."
It didn't help Fabbri's cause that Gigi Riva wasn't included in the game, and Giacomo Bulgarelli, who was carrying a knock, was injured in the game (you couldn't substitute players back then).
Ironically, Valcareggi replaced Fabbri.
The late, great Giacinto Facchetti defended Fabbri's legacy:
It is typically Italian and very stupid only to remember defeats. I always felt bad that Fabbri never got the credit he really deserved.