Korea Republic edge Elephants
© AFP

A fine Lee Dong-Gook volley set Korea Republic on their way to victory over managerless Côte d'Ivoire in an international friendly at London's Loftus Road.

The Asian side are ranked 31 places below the Africans in the latest FIFA rankings but were lively throughout and deserved the win which was sealed by Kwak Tae-Hwi's late header. Didier Drogba came close on several occasions for Les Elephants, whose attentions will now turn to securing the temporary services of Guus Hiddink.

The Elephants were being coached by Kouadio Georges after the sacking of Vahid Halihodzic last month and he handed starts to Chelsea striker Drogba, Arsenal defender Emmanuel Eboue and Portsmouth forward Aruna Dindane. Korea Republic were captained by Manchester United winger Park Ji-sung and he was joined in the starting line-up by Bolton forward Lee Chung-Yong and Celtic midfielder Ki Sung-Yong.

Both sides were hoping to learn something ahead of this year's FIFA World Cup™ finals, with Korea Republic due to come up Nigeria, and Côte d'Ivoire drawn in the same group as Korea DPR. The Ivorians are also due to play Brazil and Portugal and could be managed by former Chelsea and Korea Republic coach Hiddink, who has been linked with the vacancy.

Korea Republic were backed by some fanatical support who made a racket throughout and they went ahead in the fourth minute. A free-kick from Cha Du-Ri on the right wing was not headed clear by Cheik Tiote and the ball dropped invitingly for Lee Dong-Gook at the far post.

The Jeonbuk Hyundai forward still had work to do but demonstrated fabulous technique as he allowed the ball to drop before volleying it powerfully into the top corner past a helpless Boubacar Barry. Les Elephants were quick to respond however and bossed the next 20 minutes.

Drogba hit a free-kick tamely into the wall before Dindane nearly wriggled free inside the area only to be denied by a fine covering tackle. Bakari Kone was showing nice touches in the middle and a goal looked certain to come for the Africans but it was Korea who came close to a second in the 26th minute.

Park burst clear down the left of the area and picked out Lee Dong-gook in the middle but his shot was smothered by an excellent block from Souleman Bamba. Barry had to be at full stretch to claw out a cross as the Koreans counter-attacked well at the start of the second half before Park came within inches of a second on the hour mark.

Substitute Ahn Jung-Hwan and Ki Sung-Yong combined well as they stretched the Ivorian defence to play in Park on the left and the United man saw his curler drift a yard wide of the far post with Barry beaten. Both sides made changes as the friendly petered out before Kwak headed in Kim Jae-sung's free-kick in stoppage time.

The 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists face Argentina, Nigeria and Greece in South Africa, and coach Huh Jung-Moo is adamant his side's preparations are going to plan perfectly. "This game was excellent practice for us before the World Cup," he said.

"We have to play Nigeria and while their style is not exactly the same, Ivory Coast are another African team and it was important for us to go up against a team like that before we go to South Africa. Of course it will be tough for us in the World Cup but we have confidence that we can perform and are looking forward to the challenge."