Ivory Coast blitz past Japan
Didier Drogba and Gervinho (AFP)
Recife - Two goals in two second-half minutes saw the Ivory Coast come from
behind and beat Japan 2-1 in a dramatic World Cup Group C late Saturday
As it happened: Ivory Coast v Japan
A fine Keisuke Honda strike after 16 minutes had put
Japan in front at the Pernambuco Arena in Recife, but the Ivorians
introduced Didier Drogba from the bench just after the hour mark before
going on to turn the game on its head.
Within five minutes of the
veteran striker's arrival on the rain-soaked surface, the Elephants
scored twice, both times from Serge Aurier crosses.
came when the right-back's curling delivery was headed home by Wilfried
Bony, before Gervinho connected with another Aurier centre to stun the
sizeable Japanese contingent inside the stadium.
The result sees
the Ivory Coast join Colombia -- who beat Greece 3-0 earlier in the day
in Belo Horizonte -- on three points at the top of Group C, and Sabri
Lamouchi's side must face the South Americans next in Brasilia on
Thursday, with Japan next taking on Greece in Natal.
are desperate to finally progress beyond the group stage at a World Cup
after failing in 2006 and 2010, and they were boosted in Recife by the
presence in their starting line-up of Yaya Toure, who shrugged off a
hamstring problem in time to captain the side.
Drogba was left on
the bench at kick-off, with Swansea City's Bony preferred as the
spearhead of the attack, but the Ivorians still maintained a
considerable physical advantage over the Asian champions.
what Japan lack in muscle they more than make up for in technical
ability, and Honda displayed his class to put the Blue Samurai ahead.
a throw-in from the left flank, the ball arrived at the feet of AC
Milan playmaker Honda at the edge of the box, and he took a touch before
letting fly with a powerful, rising left-foot strike that gave Boubacar
Barry Copa in goal no chance.
Honda also scored Japan's first
goal at the 2010 World Cup finals, in a 1-0 victory against Cameroon in
South Africa, before the Asian giants eventually bowed out in the last
This time, his goal gave Japan a platform which right-back
Atsuto Uchida almost built on, as he broke into the box and turned
inside Serey Die only to see his shot beaten away by the goalkeeper.As
the rain continued to fall, the Ivorians gradually came back into the
contest with Yaya Toure and Arthur Boka both threatening from free-kicks
and the latter seeing a fizzing long-range strike parried away by Eiji
Kawashima in the Japanese goal.
Lamouchi opted to throw Drogba
into the fray in the 62nd minute, withdrawing a defensive midfielder in
Serey Die, and his presence unsettled the Japanese defence enough for
them to concede two goals in quick succession.
Aurier, of French club Toulouse, was the source of both goals with two
identical balls into the box from the right flank.
For the equaliser, Bony connected with his head to send the ball flying past Kawashima and into the net at the far post.
minutes later, Roma forward Gervinho was left unmarked to head into the
net at the near post, and Japan never really looked like coming back
into the contest after that.
Indeed, the Ivory Coast could have
added to their lead, with Drogba twice almost getting his name on the
scoresheet, including from a curling 30-yard free-kick that Kawashima
did well to turn behind.