The Ivory Coast had a chance to advance past the group stages Thursday with a big win and a Portugal loss to Brazil. Unfortunately, they were only able to take care of their own business beating North Korea 3-0. The Portugese finished in a 0-0 draw with Brazil.
The Elephants came out in the first half on a mission not be eliminated from competition, scoring within the first fifteen minutes of the match. Kolo Toure received a Arthur Boka cross and deflected it into the net to begin the scoring.
Romaric doubled the lead in six minutes later in the 20th when he headed the ball back into the net after star Didier Drogba’s shot careened off the crossbar into his path.
“It was difficult for us to go through, and I think the FIFA rankings have been respected,” Drogba said. “We are disappointed, but at the same time we cannot be too disappointed when we’re in a group like this.”
Soloman Kalou finished up the Ivorian offensive attack, scoring in the 82nd minute to the joy of the many fans that came to watch their team. A crowd of more than 34,000, mostly Ivorian, was on hand to witness their team’s final game of the 2010 World Cup. One section of the Mbombela Stadium even had a white elephant mascot dancing in the stands among fans.
The elephant accompanied the big orange wave in the crowd, caused by the fans swaying back and forth. African drums and vuvuzelas set the beat for the party going on in the stands. The Ivorian faithful were happy to see the team finish their World Cup run well, despite being eliminated from such a tough group.
“I think the players were very, very good,” Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said. “It’s a pity we have to leave, because this team is getting better and better every session. But that’s life. We’re out. We have to accept that.”
The Koreans had a few goal scoring opportunities throughout the match. Captain Hong Yong Jo missed right on a free-kick in the 24th minute from 25 yards out. Jong Tae Se’s long-range strike was saved by keeper Boubacar Barry.
Jong had another chance in the 81st minute, but couldn’t properly connect to the end of Hong’s pass. He was again denied a rebound by Barry.
In North Korea, Jong is considered to be the best footballer in the country, nicknamed “The People’s Wayne Rooney”.
Soccer sportsbooks have set Spain as the overall favorite to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup at +500 odds. Brazil comes in a close second favorite in the odds at +350, and the biggest underdog at the tournament is Slovakia at +15000.