I wonder if I’m the only one in the UK, without a vested interest in either side, who is watching this. To access this on the red button you have to bypass Portugal v Brazil. But this game promises goals. Not just because North Korea capitulated after they made their own substitutions, but because in winning, Ivory Coast need a nine goal swing, as well as a Portugal defeat in the other game. The Ivory Coast have one option, and one tactic. Go for it.
1. Brazil 2. Portugal 3 Ivory Coast 4. North Korea
They come out of the blocks immediately, hoping to catch the North Koreans cold. Yaya Toure threads Kader Keita who bursts into the box. He doesn’t connect with it well, but stays on his feet at the keeper blocks then punches the ball to safety. Romaric tries a 40 yard free kick, which is accurate, and also relatively easy for the keeper to Ri Myong-Guk to gather. Gervinho tries a ball across the face of the goal, but he’s got no support and Ri Kwang-Chon clears for a corner. Gervinho is the best player in the build up. His cross to Didier Drogba is converted, but he’s spent the entire build up offside, and the Assistant correctly rules it out. Gervinho tries another speculative shot that Ri Myong-Guk saves, but a goal has been coming, and on fifteen minutes, it arrives. A nice passive move ends with Arthur Boka on the left hand side receives the ball, he passes to Gervinho inside the penalty area, who side foots the ball past Ri Myong-Guk and the deadlock is broken. 1-0
Just an eight goal swing needed now. Romaric hits the post, with Ri Jun-Il almost deflecting it into his own net. The North Koreans aren’t getting much in the way of respite, but when they do, they’re not letting themselves down. Hong Jong-Yo has a speculative shot from a free kick 35 yards out, which is a lot better than most of the efforts we’ve had so far. It’s a brief respite though as moments later, the Ivory Coast double their lead. Drogba controls the ball beautifully on the right hand side of the area, and blasts a shot that almost snaps the crossbar in two, it bounces down, Drogba claims the goal, but it’s still in play, long enough for Romaric to head it into the net 2-0.
Seven goals needed. It was almost eight as another long Hong Jong-Yo free kick is placed just wide of the post. The Ivorians needs to be a touch more disciplined at the back, as the next opportunity for a free kick may be taken advantage of. The North Korean defence is standing off too much, allowing the Ivorians to build patiently. As a tactic it’s most hopeful conclusion is that the Ivorians get too comfortable, and we go over five minutes without an Ivorian shot. The next shot is as spectacular as it is off target. Eboue’s cross is met on the volley by Keita, and may well have landed in a car park outside the stadium. The North Koreans then have their best spell of the first half, causing keeper Boubacar Barry the odd uncomfortable moment, as in trying to claim a cross, he almost handles the ball outside the area. A ball down the side, through a North Korean defender’s legs finds Gervinho unmarked, and his shot shaves the post. Eboue lets fly from 20 yards out, and it goes over the bar. The chances are slowly reducing in number. Drogba’s cross finds Gervinho, but he has to lean too far back to head it, and the save is fairly routine. A wasted Didier Drogba is the last action of a first half. 2-0 may not be the best scorline, when you need eight, but Portugal were only 1-0 up at half time on Monday.
The second half starts the same way the first did. A surging Gervinho run brings a near post cross that Keita reaches before the keeper Ri Myong-Guk, however Ri lands badly, and it looks like his hip landed on Keita’s head. It’s accidental, but it looks painful. North Korea have started a little steelier in the second half. They’re pushing forward earlier, and committing the occasional foul. It’s closer to first half against Brazil, than the second half against Portugal. Kolo Toure tests the keeper from a shot from a crossed free kick, but Ri Myong-Guk is equal to it. Eboue’s 20 yard shot goes 20 yards over, and it feels like as little frustration is creeping in. Eboue waltzes into the area, and a cross-shot across the face of the goal is cleared with Droba poised to tap it in. Jong Tae-Se has his first opportunity from open play, as he races into the area, and tries a low drive that forces Barry into his first meaningful save. A through ball from Jong almost gives Ahn Young-Hak a chance, but the pass is over hit. It’s quietened down as a game, and the most interesting thing going on in ground is the choreographed support of the Ivorians, let by “Papa Elephant”. Ivory Coast’s next chance sees head tennis in the box, with the final one by Drogba way over the bar. If anything North Korea look more likely to score, as Jong wastes a chance with Hong Yong-So unmarked in a better position. Boka floats in a left wing cross, and with the keeper committed, Drogba can only flick the ball away from goal. Sven Goran Eriksson needs to change something, because the Ivorians look a little stale. An Eboue run, and a Keita cross gives Gervinho a great chance, but the defender puts him off, and he doesn’t make contact. Gervinho and Keita are replaced by Salomon Kalou and Aruna Dindane. Gervinho started brightly, but has faded, while Keita’s delivery has been useful, but often wasted.
We’re halfway through the second half, and the lead has never looked like extending. The first North Korean substitute comes on; Choe Kum-Chol replacing Mun In-Guk. Ivory Coast have their first meaningful shot of the second half as Romaric tests the keeper with a low drive. Kalou’s first shot is from the edge of the area, and the keeper spills it, with no-one following up. His second shot is high and wide from around eight yards out. The Ivory Coast are going out with a whimper. Hong Yong-Jo gives Jong another chance on the edge of the six yard box, but the shot is weak, and Barry gathers again. Choe Kum-Chol’s shot a minute later from 20 yards out is better, but still easy enough for the keeper. Seydou Doumbia replaces Romaric with twelve minutes left, but the Ivorians need to score a goal every two minutes, and hope Brazil score elsewhere, so it’s a reward for a good season for Doumbia, rather than a move designed at qualification. Choe finds Jong in room on the right of the penalty area. A challenge comes in, which means the eventual shot is at the keeper, but only blocked by the keeper. Jong recovers, but his second shot is blocked by a defender. A minute later, we get a goal. Arthur Boka puts in another great cross from deep on the left, Kalou gets in ahead of the keeper and scores, with the keeper picking up an injury in the process. 3-0
North Korea have two substitutions left, but leave Ri Myong-Guk on the pitch, despite his obvious injury. The Ivorians are trying to test him as much as possible now, and they have the ball in the next with four minutes left. A Didier Drogba cross is met at the far post, but Doumbia is offside and the assistant flags, as it’s not clear if Doumbia or Dindane got the touch. Ri Myong-Guk lands awkwardly again, in reaching for a cross that cleared the bar. Ri Myong-Guk is injured in about four different places, but still no change is made. Kim Myong-Won, the second choice keeper , must be abysmal, considering Ri Myong-Guk is limping, and there are five minutes of added on time to be played – but these are eventless, save Kolo Toure beating Didier Drogba for a header. In the end, it’s not a non-event, but the first half was like a training game for the Ivory Coast forwards, the second half was like a training game for the North Korean defence. The game will be forgotten before the teams arrive home.
Thanks once again go to Historical Football Kits for the use of their graphics.