15 June 2014 | News Comments

Elephants fight back to defeat Japan

World Cup grp. C 15 June 2014 Arena Pernambuco Finished

Ivory Coast 2 - 1 Japan
Keisuke Honda 16'
Maya Yoshida 23'
Makoto Hasebe 54'
Yasuhito Endo 54'
Souleymane Bamba 54'
Didier Zokora 58'
Serey Die 62'
Didier Drogba 62'
Masato Morishige 64'
Wilfried Bony 64'
Gervinho 66'
Yuya Osako 67'
Yoshito Okubo 67'
Arthur Boka 75'
Constant Djakpa 75'
Wilfried Bony 77'
Didier Konan Ya 77'
Shinji Kagawa 86'
Yoichiro Kakitani 86'

Two quickfire headed goals from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho helped Ivory Coast recover to beat Japan 2-1 as their bid for a first appearance in the World Cup knockout stages got off to a fine start.

The African side trailed to a stunning Keisuke Honda strike in the first half, but the introduction of striker Didier Drogba off the bench proved the catalyst to turn the match on its head after the restart as they scored twice in three minutes.

The victory at the Pernambuco arena moved the Ivorians level on three points at the top of Group C with Colombia, who beat Greece 3-0 earlier on Saturday.

With coaches so often judged on their ability to make brave decisions, Ivory Coast's Sabri Lamouchi put his neck on the line by leaving out Drogba, for so long a talismanic presence in the lineup, in favour of the in-form Bony.

It looked a poor call as Japan had the better of the first half.

They were sharp and nimble in possession, working clever angles as they picked off their opponents' frequently misplaced passes and took the lead with a goal of genuine quality from Honda after 16 minutes.

Collecting a pass across the box, he took one touch to shift it out of his feet and then drove it powerfully into the top corner with his left foot, before galloping away in celebration as blue hordes of Japanese fans celebrated deliriously.

The Elephants had their moments, with midfielder Yaya Toure showing occasional glimpses of his destructive powers, shifting through the gears with trademark bursts of raw energy.

Yet there was little killer instinct as half chances came and went, with Drogba prowling on the sidelines before entering the fray after 62 minutes.

The change had the desired impact on the Ivory Coast who levelled two minutes later when Bony leapt to glance a fizzing Serge Aurier cross into the far corner.

Two minutes later and another drilled Aurier centre was met this time by Gervinho who got in front of his marker to direct a header on goal that squirmed past Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who should have done better.

Statistics

Possession

Ivory Coast | 58% Japan | 42%

Shots on target

Ivory Coast | 6 Japan | 4

Shots off target

Ivory Coast | 11 Japan | 5

Fouls

Ivory Coast | 12 Japan | 13

Throw ins

Ivory Coast | 6 Japan | 5

Offsides

Ivory Coast | 3 Japan | 1

Yellow cards

Ivory Coast | 2 Japan | 2

Red cards

Ivory Coast | 0 Japan | 0

Corners

Ivory Coast | 8 Japan | 5

Counter attacks

Ivory Coast | 2 Japan | 1

Blocked Shots

Ivory Coast | 1 Japan | 0