Ivory Coast were eliminated from the World Cup yesterday despite beating North Korea 3-0 in their final Group G match.
The Ivorians needed a massive win here and a loss for Portugal in their match with Brazil to have any chance of advancing to the last 16. But the Portuguese held the South Americans to a 0-0 draw and both advanced.
Ivory Coast took the lead in the 14th minute when Yaya Touré neatly deflected Arthur Boka's cross past North Korea goalkeeper Ri Yong Guk. Koffi Romaric N'Dri then hit the post in the 17th minute with a long-range drive which caught Ri completely off-guard, but he was on target soon after when Chelsea's Didier Drogba's powerful drive bounced off the underside of the crossbar. Salomon Kalou sidefooted home late on but it was too little to save the Elephants.
Only one loss – 3-1 to Brazil – from a difficult group was a reasonable return for a team who only appointed the former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson as coach in late March. "I think the players were very, very good," Eriksson said. "It's a pity we have to leave because this team is getting better and better every session. But that's life. We're out. We have to accept that."
His muscular side did not disappoint a turnout of over 34,000 here, finishing their tournament with a feast of attacking play. The Nelspruit crowd – many of whom were orange-clad Ivorians, dipping and swaying along to African drums or brandishing vuvuzelas – came expecting goals, and Ivory Coast kept them on their feet, launching wave upon wave of attacks.
Eriksson's attacking 4-3-3 formation nearly paid early dividends when Drogba put away a header in the 11th minute, only for it to be disallowed for offside. Drogba then teed up Gervinho in the area but his shot flew wide.
"Our World Cup is over today," said Drogba, the Ivory Coast captain. "But I think we can be proud of what we did against Portugal and against Brazil – even if we lost.
"It was difficult for us to go through, and I think the Fifa rankings have been respected. We are disappointed, but at the same time we cannot be too disappointed when we're in a group like this."
North Korea Ri Myong-guk, Cha Jong-hyok, Ri Jun-il, Pak Nam-chol, Ri Kwang-chon, Ji Yun-nam, Jong Tae-se, Hong Yong-jo, Mun In-guk (Choe Kum-chol, 67), Pak Chol-jin, An Yong-hak.
Ivory Coast Barry, Boka, K Touré, Zokora, Tiote, Gervinho (Dindane, 64), Didier Drogba, Koffi Romaric N'Dri (Doumbia, 79), Keita (Kalou, 64), Y Touré, Eboué.
Referee Alberto Undiano (Spain).
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