Yaya Toure and Romaric scored first-half goals and Salomon Kalou added a late third as Côte d'Ivoire defeated Korea DPR in Nelspruit on Friday, yet Portugal's 0-0 draw with Brazil ensured the west Africans still ended the afternoon eliminated. With four points, the Elephants finish one behind the Portuguese, while Brazil top Group G with seven and the Koreans go home after three defeats.
Going into the match knowing they needed to make up at least nine goals on the Portuguese, the Ivorians attacked from the start at a raucous Mbombela Stadium as Kader Keita forced a good save from Korea DPR goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk in the opening minute. The always-dynamic Gervinho looked to have done enough to open the scoring in the 11th minute when he collected the ball on the byline and pulled it past the goalkeeper and across the face of an empty net, but no Ivorian was on hand to take advantage.
But the Elephants were ahead just three minutes later as full-back Arthur Boka's ball sliced through the defence and found Yaya Toure in space on the edge of the area. The Barcelona man calmly brought it under control and curled a right-footed shot past the diving keeper. Midfielder Romaric tickled the outside of the post with a speculative shot shortly after before doubling the lead on 20 minutes. Didier Drogba made the goal with a fabulous bit of skill, holding off a defender, bringing the ball down and then smacking a shot off the underside of the bar. While appeals were made that the ball had crossed the line, Romaric kept his concentration and coolly nodded the ball through a group of defenders.
When the North Koreans threatened it was from the pace and industry of Japan-based striker Jong Tae-Se on the counter or from free-kicks, with captain Hong Yong-Jo's curling effort in the 24th minute the best they produced. But it was Côte d'Ivoire creating most of the opportunities, and Gervinho had two good openings before the half-time break. In the 38th minute, he broke onto a through-ball in the box but his shot skimmed the bar with the goalkeeper at his mercy. Then, just before the interval, he could only loop a header from Drogba's cross straight at the goalkeeper.
Korea DPR held onto the ball more in the second period, and Jong threatened with a low shot to Boubacar Barry's near post in the 51st minute. Drogba could have increased the Elephants' lead in the middle of the half with two headers but he failed to keep either on target. Côte d'Ivoire coach Sven-Goran Eriksson brought on forwards Aruna Dindane and Kalou in the 64th minute in the quest for more goals, but they left themselves more open at the back and Jong had two chances to score in the 81st minute, with the Korean sharpshooter denied only by some desperate defending. Just a minute after that, Côte d'Ivoire finally found their third – merely a consolation at that point – as Kalou managed to touch in Boka's cross ahead of the charging goalkeeper.