The Elephants of Côte d'Ivoire never quite hit the high notes in their game on Wednesday night in Tianjin, but the 1-0 win over Australia was enough to see them through as second-place Group A finishers behind table-toppers Argentina. Neighbours Nigeria now await scorer Solomon Kalou and Co in an all-Africa quarter-final in Qinhuangdao.
The Ivorians created the first chance in the game after looking lively in the early exchanges. On 14 minutes, Franck Dja Djedje lined up a strike from 25 yards out that had Aussie keeper Adam Federici scrambling to grab the second attempt before the menacing Kalou could pounce.
Shortly after, the Asian side began to turn up the heat on their opponents. In the 20th minute David Carney was put clean through and was only denied by a goal-line clearance from Souleymane Bamba at full stretch. Mark Bridge and Nikita Rukavytsya continued to turn the screws on the Ivorians in a refreshing attacking posture, one in stark contrast to their ultra-defensive tactics last time out against Argentina. Unfortunately for the brave Australians, they lacked a finishing touch and the half ended scoreless.
With the Australians needing a win to move on to the quarter-finals, the second half belonged to their African opponents. Kalou was looking the danger man for the Elephants. On 61 minutes he roared into the box only for Emmenuel Kone to miss the chance provided to him. Then, on 68 minutes, Kalou spurned a golden opportunity. The normally clinical Chelsea hit-man combined well with Gervinho to move up the pitch, but somehow conspired to slam over from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
It looked as if no goals were to fall in Tianjin on Wednesday (Italy and Cameroon played out a dull scoreless draw earlier in the day), but thankfully Kalou managed to align his shooting sights and give the capacity crowd something to scream about. Fed in once again by the speedy Gervinho with nine minutes to go, Kalou made no mistake unleashing a vicious shot into the top corner from 12 yards out.
The win sees Côte d'Ivoire finish with six points (three behind Argentina), and sets up a date with Nigeria - who eliminated the USA to finish top of their Group - in a quarter-final on 16 August in the coastal resort city of Qinhuangdao.