Group C
Holland 2-1 Ivory Coast

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Holland earned a place in the last 16 courtesy of a tense 2-1 win over Ivory Coast.

The defeat knocked Henri Michel’s team out of the tournament, but they can be proud of their contribution in Germany in what is undoubtedly the most competitive group at the finals.

Holland took the initiative from the off, creating space down both flanks in the early stages. Van Persie set up van Bommel and the Barcelona midfielder sent in a tempting cross that just eluded Van Nistelrooy.

At the other end, Eboue had an appeal for a penalty turned down, although television replays showed that Van Bronckhorst had impeded the full-back.

Kone was looking lively for the African side, using his pace to outstrip the Dutch defence but his finishing didn’t match the quality of his approach play. In fact, the same could be said of the entire Ivorian team who displayed plenty of finesse in their build-up but precious little in the final third.

Robin van Persie who was prominent in the early stages, had a decisive intervention midway through the first half when he was brought down by his Arsenal team-mate Eboue. Van Persie picked himself up and from the resulting free-kick, fired an unstoppable free-kick past Tizie.

Three minutes later Holland went two up when Van Bommel fed Van Nistelrooy and the Manchester United striker, standing just onside, made no mistake from 12 yards.

For the second successive game the Ivory Coast had to come from two goals behind. They almost reduced the arrears when Zokora struck the angle of the post and bar with a long-range shot.

However, as they demonstrated in their previous game, they are a resilient side and they reduced the arrears eight minutes before the break with a wonderful solo goal from Kone. The midfielder cut across the penalty area and fired a glorious shot past van der Sar. It was a special goal and the first goal the keeper had conceded in more than 17 hours of international football.

At this stage Ivory Coast were in the ascendancy and Drogba had a wonderful chance to level the scores when he burst through just before the break, However, a marvellous covering tackle from Van Bronckhorst denied the Chelsea striker as he was about to pull the trigger.

The half-time whistle gave both sets of players a well-deserved breather after a thrilling opening 45 minutes.

The second half began in a similar vein to the opening period with both sides committing men forward. The first good chance fell to Van Nistelrooy who drew a smart save from Tizie with a 20yard drive.

Meanwhile, Eboue advanced into the penalty area to collect a dinked pass from Romaric but his goal-bound shot was blocked by Van Bronckhorst.

Ivory Coast continued to take the game to Holland, and Kone had a great opportunity to level the scores when he was set up by Drogba, but the PSV forward was unable to repeat his first-half heroics and his shot drifted harmlessly over the bar.

At this stage Holland were struggling to retain possession, and it was noticeable that when the supply to the wide players dried up Marco Van Basten’s team looked a distinctly ordinary outfit.

As the Ivory Coast pressed for an equaliser, a Didier Drogba header caused confusion in the Dutch penalty area with the van Persie eventually chesting the ball off the line. Shortly afterwards the substitute Yapi Yapo cut inside from the left but his shot was straight at van der Sar.

Despite their valiant efforts, both today and in their opening game defeat to Argentina, the Ivory Coast are out of the competition. They were unfortunate to be placed in the toughest group of the lot and when one looks at some of the countries that have already qualified, the tournament will be poorer for their departure.

Holland, who began the game brightly, showed that they are some way short of being genuine contenders for the World Cup. In four years time this young team will pose a potent threat, but in 2006 they don’t appear to have the all-round game to be able to mount a sustained challenge.

Holland: Van der Sar, Heitinga, Ooijer, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst, Van Bommel, Sneijder, Cocu, Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, Robben.

Subs used: Boulahrouz 46 (for Heitinga) Van der Vaart 50 (for Schneider), Landzaat 73 (for van Nistelrooy).

Bookings: Robben 34, Mathijsen 35, Van Bommel 58, Boulahrouz 93.

Ivory Coast: Tizie, Eboue, Kolo Toure, Meite, Boka, Zokora, Gneri Yaya Toure, Romaric, Arouna Kone, Bakari Kone, Drogba.

Subs used: Yapi Yapo 63 (for Romaric), Dindane 62 (for B Kone)

Bookings: Zokora 25, Drogba 41, Boka 66

Referee: Julian Oscar Ruiz Acosta (Colombia).

Holland: Van Persie 23, Van Nistelrooy 26
Ivory Coast: B Kone 38

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