It wasn't just Didier Drogba. Everyone in an Ivory Coast shirt was helpless. Nigerian midfielder Sunday Mba's 78th-minute run from midfield ended with him running out of options. So he had a shot. The ball took just enough of a deflection off an Ivorian defender to leave the keeper, Boubacar Barry, with no chance.
But even if Ivory Coast's 2-1 elimination loss to Nigeria in the Africa Cup of Nations over the weekend was surprising as an upset, it should have been predictable as an inevitability. If not that match, then maybe the next or the next would have seen the Ivorians out. Ever since losing the 2006 final to hosts Egypt, Ivory Coast has been the heavy pre-tournament favorite for every ACoN. And each time it has failed to win.
As an Englishman, I've grown used to sporting failure. It's comfortable, expected, and acceptable. Where British Olympians have traditionally thrived in individual competitions, the team arena is largely one of tears and near-misses. England birthed or formalized many games but has mastered precious few.
Most soccer World Cups? Brazil, with five titles.
Most rugby World Cups? New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia have two each.
We can't even corner the market on absurd fringe pursuits. England lost the 2003 Rowenta Trophy for extreme ironing to a South African duo, though it thankfully retains the current world records for ferret legging and an iron grip on croquet's fiery domain. It's a relationship with sports that feels vaguely Promethean, forever cursed to royally suck at the things it created/stole/codified and, until the past few years, England's woe has rarely been more stark than it has been in cricket. (Please, fellow soccer fans, don't mention 1966.)
Yet in 2013, fresh off a first series win in India since 1985, there's abundant hope when it comes to the first sport to be dubbed England's original national pastime.
How They Got Here: Portugal pulled off the unlikely feat — or what seemed an unlikely feat before the tournament — of making it out of Group B, the Group of Death. After a fairly close loss to Germany, 1-0, Paulo Bento's side got a game-winning goal against Denmark from little-known Silvestre Varela and a world-beating performance from Cristiano Ronaldo in a 2-1 win against the Dutch.
The Czechs got their pants pulled down by Russia in one of the most one-sided losses of the tournament so far (4-1, on the opening day of Euro 2012). Since then, they've taken their chances very well (basically the key to winning tournament games). Their opening goal against Greece was like watching CCTV footage of a mugging.