World Cup post-game: Ivory Coast 3, N. Korea 0
The Ivory Coast's 3-0 win over North Korea was not enough to move on to the second round of the FIFA World Cup.
The Group of Death has its final casualty.
Needing a lopsided win over North Korea combined with a Brazil victory over Portugal, the Ivory Coast's advancement to the next round, while mathematically possible, was virtually impossible. Or perhaps better described by the game's television commentator Steve Banyard as, "football's equivalent of climbing Mount Everest."
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The Elephants, as the Ivorians are affectionately called, made no mystery of their desire to pack the net full of goals in this match and played an up-tempo, attacking style from the opening kickoff.
Urged on by the sea of orange-clad Ivory Coast fans in the stands at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, the Elephants had a couple of close chances early on before burying their first goal in the 14th minute. They added another seven minutes later and could have enjoyed several more before the end of the half had their finishing been more precise.
In the end, despite spending most of the match in the North Korean third (the Ivorians outshot their opponents 28-9), the Africans could only pocket one more goal in the second half, ending their hopes of advancing.
North Korea, meanwhile, had nothing to play for in this game except proverbial pride, having already been eliminated with two losses, including a 7-0 thrashing at the feet of Portugal.
They could, however, take some solace in their improved second-half play. Of the nine goals they conceded in their previous two games, eight came in the second half. Against the Ivory Coast, the North Koreans allowed three goals, but just one blemish in the final 45 minutes.
What this result means
Ivory Coast will not advance to the Round of 16, becoming the fifth African nation to be eliminated — joining Cameroon, Algeria, Nigeria and host South Africa on the sidelines. Ghana is the only African team to advance to the next round.
Brazil wins Group G with seven points, ahead of Portugal (five points), Ivory Coast (four points) and North Korea (zero points).
Brazil meets the runner-up from Group H in the next round, while Portugal faces the Group H winner.
The winning goal
After a flurry of pressure and missed opportunities, Yaya Toure gave the Ivorians a lead they would never relinquish. The Barcelona midfielder received a pass from Arthur Boka on the left side, collected the ball onto his right foot and calmly curled the ball inside the near post from just outside the 18-yard box. It was a superb finish by Toure, who proved that not all goals need muscle behind them.
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The second half. The Ivorians were a determined bunch in the opening 45 minutes, but lacked the same energy in the final frame. North Korea fought hard to the end, essentially quashing any chance for the Elephants to chip away at the nine-goal swing they needed for any shot at the Round of 16.
Goal of the match
Salomon Kalou's goal in the 82nd minute was a great display of eye-to-foot co-ordination. Kalou kept one eye on a long ball from teammate Boka and one eye on the North Korean defenders. The Chelsea striker snuck behind his mark and deftly volleyed the ball over sprawling North Korean goalkeeper Ri Myong Guk to make it 3-0.
Man of the match
Didier Drogba may not have scored in this match, but he was a presence at all times in the attacking third, which was basically where the Ivory Coast spent the entire 90 minutes. His blistering strike in the 20th minute, which caromed off the underside of the crossbar, led to Koffi Romaric's easy header for a 2-0 lead and his skill, size and aerial prowess kept the North Koreans on their toes throughout the match. It was a fine end to the tournament for the Chelsea striker, who played the entire World Cup with a protective cast on his surgically repaired elbow.
The Ivorian perspective
"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." — Ivory Coast team captain Didier Drogba.
The North Korean perspective
"It has laid the foundation for us to grow in the future. So this has been a very useful experience for us. Up until the last minute of the match, they really put in all their effort. I think that's a very positive trait." — North Korea's coach Kim Jong Hun.