15 June 2014

Cote d'Ivoire: Second Half Comeback Seals Cote d'Ivoire Win

Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Yaya Toure evades a tackle from Carlos Sanchez of Colombia during their World Cup clash.

Two goals in as many second-half minutes saw Cote d'Ivoire come from behind to secure a precious 2-1 victory over Japan in their 2014 FIFA World Cup opener in Recife.

The Ivorians fell behind to a Keisuke Honda strike early on, but a quick-fire double in the second period from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho gave the Elephants the three points they wanted and a big step towards the second round.

It was no more than the west African side deserved - they had more than double the number of efforts on goal and were unfortunate not to claim victory by a greater margin.

The team were given a boost before kick-off when key midfielder Yaya Toure was declared fit to play, and coach Sabri Lamouchi went with a front three of Bony, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou, leaving veteran forward Didier Drogba on the bench.

Cote d'Ivoire made the better start, pressurizing the Japan goal with their fast-paced attacks, but fell behind to a wonderful strike from Honda on 16 minutes. He picked up the ball on the edge of the area and blasted past Elephants keeper Boubacar Barry.

From an Ivorian perspective he was given too much time and space, but it was a fine goal nonetheless.

Yaya Toure blazed over a free-kick chance and Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima then beat away a Bony shot, with Gervinho just unable to turn the loose ball home as the African side began to pile on the pressure.

It was another exciting match in a tournament that has yet to produce a bad one but there were no further goals in the first half.

Bony was the culprit in another golden opportunity missed early in the second half, but the game changed when Drogba came on just past the hour mark. He had looked less than pleased to be sitting on the bench and took that frustration out on Japan.

His muscle and presence took attention away from others and just two minutes after he came on the Elephants were level, Bony glancing home a header from Serge Aurier's cross.

Another two minutes later the Ivorians were in front with a goal similar in its construction. Aurier crossed again and this time it was Gervinho to head home, though Kawashima will feel he should have kept the effort out as his fumble allowed the ball to cross the line.

Drogba then saw his free kick beaten away by the Japan goalkeeper and another low-drive flash deflected just wide of goal.

The win is just the third in World Cup finals for Cote d'Ivoire, who now face pool favourites Colombia on Thursday in Brasilia.

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