The first half was dominated by the Elephants, but despite creating a stream of chances, they would only strike twice, with goals from Yaya Toure and Koffi Romaric. Such profligacy would be regretted after the break as the Africans weren’t nearly so sharp and would only add to their tally late on from substitute Salomon Kalou.
Needing an avalanche of goals to stand any chance of going through, the Ivorians threatened on at least four occasions in the opening 10 minutes. Less than 60 seconds were on the clock when Kader Keita raced onto a fine through pass from Yaya Toure but saw his shot blocked by Ri Myong-Guk.
Didier Drogba thumped a header into the net after 11 minutes, but had his effort correctly disallowed for offside. However, the breakthrough came a minute later when Yaya Toure curled a shot into the far corner from the edge of the area.
Romaric’s shot-come-cross moments later hit the post with a drive from the edge of the box, and the same player was on hand to make it 2-0 with less than 20 minutes played. Drogba showed exemplary control to pull down a difficult cross, but thundered his shot against the crossbar. However, the Sevilla midfielder was on hand to head home the rebound.
Hong Yong-Jo nearly pulled a goal back with a free-kick that wrong-footed Boubacar Barry but sailed just wide, before Keita sent a stunning volley just past the top corner and Gervinho’s toe-poke skimmed the far post.
There was no relenting in the Elephants’ pressure after the break, initially at least. Drogba had the best chance in the early moments of the second half, but his diving header to connect with a loose ball in the box missed went wide.
Increasingly the Ivoirians’ play became fraught, and as a result the chances dried up. North Korea coincidentally increased in confidence and became a threat on the break, with Jong Tae-Se shooting on sight.
World Cup progression was growing an increasingly distant prospect for the Ivorians, and that was reflected in their attacks. Romaric had a powerful drive from distance well pushed away and substitute Kalou shot straight at Ri Myong-Guk, but the realisation of elimination was dawning on the green and white clad side.
Kalou had another wonderful chance 18 minutes from time, but he shot well over the top from close range after finding good space in the box.
Kalou eventually did find his goal, latching onto Boka’s excellent cross to tap home from eight yards out, but the three goals were never going to prove enough as yet another African side crashed out.