Korea DPR and Côte d'Ivoire will bring their Group G campaigns to an end hoping for vastly different rewards, with the former aiming to bid the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ farewell with a pride-inducing win and the latter eyeing a miracle qualification for the knockout stage.
Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit will be the venue as the Elephants attempt to record the thumping victory they require to have any chance of reaching the last 16, with Sven Goran Eriksson’s men also needing already-qualified Brazil to defeat Portugal elsewhere in the section. Their exit assured, meanwhile, the challenge for Korea DPR will be to salvage their honour and bow out of their first FIFA World Cup finals since 1966 on a positive note.
The Elephants go into this match capable of progressing, but for that to occur they will probably need to better Portugal’s 7-0 triumph over Korea DPR, while requiring Brazil to do them a favour by overcoming the European side. Nine strikes separate Portugal and Côte d'Ivoire in goal-difference terms, so Didier Drogba and Co will be hoping Brazil can help them out by racking up a few efforts of their own.
Eriksson’s team will rely on their power and technical prowess to gain ground going forward, with Yaya Toure, Siaka Tiene and Emmanuel Eboue entrusted with getting moves started and both Salomon Kalou and Aruna Dindane charged with feeding chief marksman Drogba from the wings. If those players click, the North Koreans can expect to come under relentless pressure.
Kim Jong-Hun’s troops have nonetheless shown some positive signs during their tournament so far, with their two defeats mostly reflecting inexperience at the back. His side will now go all out to obtain one or even three morale-boosting points to end their stay with something to show for their efforts, and captain Hong Yong-Jo will be vital to their game plan along with Pak Nam-Chol and Mun In-Guk. As for Jong Tae-Se, he will hope to pounce on any counter-attacking opportunities, with the AFC team again relying on their pace and ability to press opponents.
Players to watch
Didier Drogba v Ji Yun-Nam
Côte d’Ivoire fans were plunged into despair when star striker Drogba fractured his arm a few days before the action got started, but the legend in his homeland defied injury to take part in the festivities. His contributions have been noteworthy so far and it was he who reduced the deficit against Brazil with his team’s only goal in two games. The Chelsea predator also found the net for the Elephants at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, making him the player an entire country will be looking to in the hunt for goals.
As for Korea DPR, it was their ironclad defence that guided them to South Africa and they kept a string of clean sheets until the final round of qualifiers. Boasting an excellent ability to read the game and organise his partners, Ji has emerged as a leader at the heart of that rearguard and will thus shoulder the lion’s share of the responsibility for keeping Drogba quiet.
2 – This is the second time at a FIFA World Cup finals for both Korea DPR and Côte d'Ivoire. In 1966, the east Asians made their way through to the quarter-finals, where they lost 5-3 to Portugal, while the Elephants bowed out after the group stage at Germany 2006 following one win and two reverses.
What they said
"We wanted to qualify. We’ve still got a chance, but it’s complicated. We’ll go out on the pitch with the sole ambition of winning and scoring as many goals as possible – between seven and nine. We’ll give everything we have and perhaps we’ll end up making it. In football, you never know,” Didier Zokora, Côte d’Ivoire defender.
"Our last defeat was painful. What went against us in the Portugal game was our lack of concentration. We’ve tried to stay positive. We need to be ready against Côte d'Ivoire, even if we haven’t had much time to prepare as we’d like,” An Yong Hak, Korea DPR midfielder.
Voice of the fans
"In football, anything is possible. Even if Côte d’Ivoire have to win 8-0, we won’t give up hope," FIFA.com user Messi-Ben (Côte d’Ivoire).