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World Cup 2014

Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1: Highlights, key battles and what the result means

Published on Jun 15, 2014 11:33 AM
Ivory Coast's forward and captain Didier Drogba (left) runs with the ball during a Group C football match between Ivory Coast and Japan at the Pernambuco Arena in Recife during the 2014 Fifa World Cup on June 14, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

Japan squandered a glorious opportunity to open their World Cup campaign on a positive note, when Ivory Coast score two quick-fire goals to erase the Asia giants' early lead.

The Ivorians were also guilty of profligacy, missing a handful of chances in the first half. But it all changed when their long-time talismanic striker Didier Drogba came in as a substitute striker.

Immediately they looked far more dangerous, notching the goals in the 65th and the 67th minutes via crisp headers to earn the eventual win.


- Against the athleticism and physicality of the African side, Japan were always needing a spark of magic and guile to win the match. And they thought they had earned it in the 16th minute, when key playmaker Keisuke Honda slammed an exquisite shot into the top left corner of goal.

- Ivory Coast, in contrast, huffed and puffed to little avail in the first half, before they finally introduced Drogba into the fray on the hour mark.

- Suddenly, with Drogba and Swansea striker Wilfred Bony up front, they looked far more menacing in attack. In the 65th minute, they finally equalised when Bony latched onto to right-back Serge Aurier's magnificent cross with a glancing header that gave Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima no chance.

- Boosted by that goal, the Ivorians surged ahead, and within two minutes, got their reward via the same route: a great cross from Aurier. This time, it was former Arsenal player Gervinho who stooped low to head towards goal. Kawashima should have done better, as the ball slipped between his hands and into the net.

Key battle

- It was Japan's speed and guile against Ivory Coast's athleticism and physicality.

- For much of the first half, Japan thwarted their opponents with crisp passing and quick movement, and harried in packs to frustrate the bigger-sized Africans.

- But the Asian side ran out of steam in the second half, and the Ivorians gained the ascendancy, bossing the midfield with explosive bursts of speed to gain control of the match.

Man of the Match

- Serge Aurier was a great presence for Ivory Coast in the right flank, and he earned his "wings" with two great assists that gave his side the eventual win.

- A tireless runner, his crossing could prove vital for lifting the Ivorians past the group stage.

What the result means

- For Ivory Coast, the win puts them in a good position to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in their history. Their so-called Golden Generation are already veterans on their last legs - the likes of Drogba, Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora will not last another World Cup campaign. This could be their last hurrah.

- For Japan, things look tough, as they must get positive results against a rampant Colombia and a stung Greece next. Can they find the guile and magic to overcome these two strong sides? It will not be easy.