Too little too late for Ivory Coast
As in their first World Cup campaign, Ivory Coast ended their group in South Africa 2010 with a victory, but it wasn’t enough to see them progress to the knockout stages.
Goals from Yaya Toure, Romaric and Salomon Kalou gave the Elephants a 3-0 win over North Korea, but with Portugal earning a point against Brazil, even pulling back the nine goal deficit between the teams would not have been enough.
Knowing that only a comprehensive victory, and a defeat for Portugal, would qualify them, Sven Goran Eriksson named his most attacking line up so far. Playmaker Romaric came into midfield as Eboue dropped to fullback, while Gervinho and Kader Keita replaced Dindane and Kalou up front alongside Didier Drogba.
After twenty minutes the Elephants’ enormous task almost looked possible. After Drogba had a header ruled out for offside, Yaya Toure coolly passed the ball into the corner from a well-worked team move. Then as an exquisite piece of control, a sharp turn and a rasping shot from Drogba struck the underside of the bar, Romaric was on hand to head a second goal for Ivory Coast.
The first half continued in this manner, though despite fourteen shots on the North Korean goal, ten on target, the score-line at half-time remained 2-0.
After the break North Korea sat back even deeper, fearing another rout, and frustrated their opponents. Kalou’s goal, a neat touch from a perfect cross by Arthur Boka, emphasised the gulf in class between the teams, but did nothing to stop Ivory Coast stuttering out of the World Cup.
But Eriksson was swift to defend his team, praising their efforts despite the expectation and hope which accompanied the African superstars.
“If you look at the three games we have played they should be very proud of themselves and the country should be proud of them,” said the former England manager. “The team are leaving the World Cup with their heads held high.”
Eriksson, however, will not be the man to take the Ivory Coast further, his tenure as manager having come to the end with elimination from the tournament he was brought in to lead them through.
Drogba, speaking after what will likely be the 32 year old’s last World Cup appearance, echoed the sentiments of the coach. “Our World Cup is over but I think we can be proud of what we did against Portugal and what we did against Brazil, even though we lost.”
“We are disappointed but at the same time we can’t be too disappointed from a group like this.”
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