By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Ivory Coast came from behind to beat Japan 2-1 at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife last night in Group C of the FIFA World Cup. National idol Didier Drogba came off the bench to inspire the Africans to victory after a tepid opening half.
Drogba hadn’t started the game due to a thigh injury, and the Elephants missed his leadership as Japan had the better of the opening exchanges. Honda fired Japan ahead on sixteen minutes with a fierce left-footed drive.
The rain beat down during the game, taking the pace off the ball and rendering Gervinho’s attempts to claw Ivory Coast level useless. The 27-year-old’s pace can be a potent weapon, but on a night such as this it was of little use.
Japan went in at the break a goal to the good, and in the awful weather looked content to settle for a scrappy 1-0 win. But that was until the introduction of a certain Didier Drogba, just after the hour mark.
His presence alone was enough to encourage his teammates, who scored two goals in as many minutes to turn the tie around. First, on 64 minutes, Bony met Aurier’s right-sided cross with a deft glancing header to bring the scores level.
Two minutes later the same player provided for Gervinho, whose headed effort crept in at the near post beyond a sprawling Kawashima in the Japan goal. Drogba hadn’t participated in the goals, but had delivered the belief to his supporting cast that they were not out of the contest.
As Japan pressed for an equalizer, Ivory Coast had the chance of a third on the counter-attack. Gervinho teed up Yaya Toure, but he could not get his shot away in time, and the result finished 2-1.
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