Korea DPR kept alive their hopes of a place in the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Championship Peru 2005 with a comfortable victory over Côte d'Ivoire in Chiclayo on 20 September. Completely outplayed, the Baby Elephants are now resigned to an early flight home, whereas their conquerors will take on Italy for a place in the last eight in Trujillo in three days' time. Also celebrating the result will be Group C leaders USA, who are now assured of their ticket to the last eight with six points under their belts.
In stark contrast to the earlier match in Chiclayo today, Côte d'Ivoire and Korea DPR wasted no time in setting the crowd on the edge of their seats. In particular, the Asians got off to an extremely quick start - indeed quick is an understatement for the electric pace employed by Hyong Ho Choe, Hung Ryong Ri and Chol Min Pak as they caused palpitations in the Ivorian defence. Pak let fly with the game's first shot after just three minutes, only for Ikossie Tahourou to make a save, but he was back soon after and narrowly missed the target with another effort on goal (6').
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Ri took up the challenge next and bamboozled Côte d'Ivoire's rearguard with a mazy run through the middle before being upended by their Mimos-Sifcom Academy goalkeeper. It was a clear-cut penalty and Choe stepped up to take it, firing his side into the lead (0:1, 9'). That early blow sparked a reaction from the Africans, but a recurrent wastefulness with their final touch let them down badly. Koffi Kouassi did what he could do on the right-wing and Ismael Fofana matched him on the left, yet their efforts came to nought.
Meanwhile, the Koreans looked dangerous every time they poured forward. Nam Chol Pak had an opportunity to open up a two-goal lead from a corner, and although he blasted over (35'), he and his team-mates would not have long to wait for their second. After a superbly-constructed move down the right, Kuk Jin Kim surged into the area and laid the ball off for Choe to crack in an unstoppable shot from the left (0:2, 38'). "I'm very proud of my two goals. I don't have words to express how I feel," he explained afterwards, clearly moved by his telling contribution.
Côte d'Ivoire out for the count
The Baby Elephants were on the ropes and they would soon be knocked out of the ring. Another excellent move found Kyong Il Kim 20 metres from goal, and the midfielder made sure of the result by unleashing a missile into the back of the net (0:3, 44'). The referee then blew for half-time to the Ivorians' immense relief.
Little changed after the break, although Robert Bohé ruthlessly attempted to plug his leaky defence by substituting his goalkeeper. The Koreans were less penetrating when the game got back underway, but it mattered little as their opponents had lost heart and failed to produce any kind of threat on Kwang Min Ju's goal. "We were invisible," lamented Bohé after the match. "Our marking was too casual and we gave them too much space. I hardly recognised my strikers either. They were sluggish, shy and too fragile."
With Korea DPR happy to pocket the result and the Ivorians psychologically beaten, the match lost any semblance of rhythm or intrigue. To their credit, though, Côte d'Ivoire did finally conjure up a couple of half-chances towards the end.
Moustapha Abdul was responsible for the first, only to end his surging run with a weak shot (77'). Irénée Kouakou then worked himself into space but the cross he called for never arrived (80'). A last attempt from Marius Gnabouyou failed to produce a consolation goal, and the Ivorians were knocked out of the tournament with a lot of re-thinking to do.
Understandably, the Koreans were all smiles after the final whistle. "Losing the first game left us in a delicate position and we've now sorted that out. If we play our third match like this one, we can hope to go through," declared an elated Tong Sop Jo.