NELSPRUIT - Ivory Coast convincingly beat North Korea 3-0 on Friday, but the win, which could easily have been by a larger margin, was still not enough to prevent the Africans from going out of the World Cup.
Portugal and Brazil's 0-0 draw in the other final Group G match ensured they both qualified for the last 16, rendering the Ivorian result meaningless. North Korea, who lost all three of their games, had already been eliminated.
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Despite their exit, Ivory Coast coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said he was pleased with his side's performance in what had always looked like one of the tournament's hardest groups.
"They should be very proud of themselves and the country should be very proud of them," he told reporters.
"It's a good team and I think the future belongs to this country ... absolutely. The future for this country, football-wise, is great."
The Ivorians had needed to score a glut of goals to give themselves any chance of overhauling Portugal after their earlier 7-0 win over North Korea.
"If we were a little bit more calm maybe we could have scored more goals," said striker Didier Drogba,
"Our world cup is over today but we can be proud of what we did against Portugal and what we did against Brazil and today. We are disappointed but we can't be too disappointed when you are in a group like this with Portugal and Brazil."
He also saw good times ahead for his nation's team.
"For a country like Ivory Coast to be in the world cup twice in a row is something fantastic. We were unlucky but at the same time we are happy," he said.
Needing plenty of goals, Ivory Coast left Salomon Kalou on the bench and opted for a three-pronged attack of Drogba, Gervais Kouassi and Abdelkader Keita.
North Korea coach Kim Jong-hun kept faith with the same starting 11 that were ruthlessly dismantled by Portugal.
Goals from Yaya Toure and Ndri Romaric gave the Ivorians a 2-0 half time lead, but it could have been five or six as North Korea struggled to cope with the one-way traffic heading towards their net.
Ri Myong-guk was forced into action right from the kickoff, making a smart save from Keita, but there would be no respite for the North Korean goalkeeper as Ivory Coast flooded forwarded at every opportunity.
The Ivorians went ahead in the 14th minute Toure took a pass on the edge of the area before opening up his body and curling the ball into the far corner of the net.
Romaric struck the outside of the post four minutes later but was on hand to nod the ball home after Drogba crashed a vicious shot off the underside of the crossbar in the 20th minute.
North Korea's first and only chance of the first half came in the 25th minute when captain Hong Yong-jo stroked a freekick just wide of Boubacar Barry's goal.
The west Africans picked up where the left off in the second half, Drogba sending a diving header wide and Kouassi failing to connect with Keita's dangerous delivery, but North Korea looked far more organised in defence.
Jong Tae-se almost pulled one back for North Korea in the 81st minute but he could not force the ball over the line.
Instead, Ivory Coast notched up a third when Kalou, on as a substitute, side footed home from close range in the 82nd minute after a great cross from Arthur Boka.comments