NELSPRUIT, South Africa — Ivory Coast was eliminated from the World Cup on Friday despite beating North Korea 3-0 in their final Group G match.
The Ivorians needed a massive win combined with a loss for Portugal in the other group match to have any chance of advancing to the round of 16. But the Portuguese held Brazil to a 0-0 draw and both advanced.
Ivory Coast took the lead in the 14th minute when Arthur Boka sent a low cross into the area and Yaya Toure neatly deflected it past North Korea goalkeeper Ri Yong Guk.
Koffi Romaric N’Dri hit the far post with a long-range drive from the right in the 17th, catching Ri completely off guard, but was on target with a header in the 20th after Didier Drogba’s powerful drive bounced off the underside of the crossbar.
Salomon Kalou scored the final goal in the 82nd.
Only one loss — 3-1 to Brazil — from a difficult group was a reasonable result for Ivory Coast and Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was appointed coach in late March.
The bigger, more muscular Ivorians didn’t disappoint the more than 34,000 crowd in Nelspruit, though, finishing with a feast of attacking play against North Korea.
There were large groups of Ivorians in the crowd, wearing orange shirts and dipping and swaying in unison to the beat of African drums and the constant drone of the vuvuzelas. One section, on the top tier of Mbombela Stadium, even included a mascot: a dancing white elephant, complete with long white trunk and flapping ears.
The fans came expecting goals, and Ivory Coast kept them on their feet, dominating possession from the start and finding space almost at will.
Drogba headed into the net from in the 11th but had it disallowed for offside. Then the Chelsea striker passed to Gervinho in the area, only for the shot to go wide.
North Korea had few seriously threatening opportunities. Captain Hong Yong Jo hooked his free kick from 25 yards to the right in the 24th and striker Jong Tae Se’s long-range right-foot shot in the 53rd was easily saved by Boubacar Barry.
Jong had a chance in the 81st, but he couldn’t properly connect with Hong’s pass and was unable to get a shot on the rebound.
It was little reward for the fast and hardworking Jong, nicknamed “The People’s Rooney” in North Korea, where his play has been compared with England striker Wayne Rooney.
Knowing Ivory Coast needed a massive swing in its goal differential to have any chance of advancing, Eriksson made four changes to his starting lineup in the pursuit of goals.
Drogba, who broke his arm on June 4 in a warmup match and had surgery ahead of the World Cup, started his second consecutive match after being on the bench in the opening 0-0 draw with Portugal. He was wearing a green protective cast on his right arm.
He received good support from Gervinho, who had more chances alone than the North Korean team combined.
Gervinho was denied by the right post in the 38th and couldn’t quite get to Drogba’s cross in the 44th, when his weak header was saved by Ri.
He was unable to get a touch on Kader Keita’s pass into the goalmouth from the left in the 64th. Both were replaced after that, allowing Kalou into the attack. He missed shots from close range in the 71st and 73rd minutes before finishing off with Ivory Coast’s third goal.
Ivory Coast was never in serious danger against the North Koreans, who went into the match following a 7-0 loss to Portugal.
North Korea had a lot of history to live up to after the team from the reclusive communist nation took the world by surprise by beating Italy en route to a quarter-final loss to Portugal in 1966.
North Korea: Ri Myong Guk, Cha Jong Hyok, Ri Jun Il, Pak Nam Chol, Ri Kwang Chon, Ji Yun Nam, Jong Tae Se, Hong Yong Jo, Mun In Guk (Choe Kum Chol, 67), Pak Chol Jin, An Yong Hak.
Ivory Coast: Boubacar Barry, Arthur Boka, Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora, Ismael Tiote, Gervinho (Aruna Dindane, 64), Didier Drogba, Koffi Romaric N’Dri (Seydou Doumbia, 79), Kader Keita (Salomon Kalou, 64), Yaya Toure, Emmanuel Eboue.