Soccer News of Sun, 15 Jun 20147
Gervinho header secures Ivory Coast full marks over Japan
A superb second half performance saw Ivory Coast rally from a goal down to beat Japan 2-1 in a hugely entertaining Group C game in Itaipava Arena Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco.
A delicate Gervinho header in the 66th minute proved priceless as the African giants picked up their first ever victory in an opening fixture at the World Cup.
Wilfried Bony had only three minutes earlier headed home the equaliser to a Honda opener as early as the quarter of an hour.
And while Didier Drogba was not on target, his introduction in the 61st minute proved to be just the catalyst the Elephants needed to walk over the Asians.
The Ivorian golden generation were widely tipped to beat their Asian counterparts and showed glimpses of class in the opening embers, but it was the Japanese who looked more dangerous on the counter.
The Asian side looked well composed in defence and deadly going forward with the AC Milan striker, Honda leading the attack.
The cultured left-footed player dummied his marker before unleashing a thunderbolt in the 15th minute to beat Barry in post for the Ivorians.
The Asians threatened to increase the tally three minutes later, but Barry was equal to the task by parrying to corner a direct shot at close range.
With an attacking repertoire in Gervinho, Kalou and Bony the Ivorians pounded the goal area of the Japanese many times in a desperate search of an equaliser but were unlucky in some cases and in others completely clueless in front of goal.
Yaya Toure had a penalty appeal disallowed when he struck a ball into the arm of a Japanese defender in the 30th minute before Kalou advertised a horrendous header which went way off target in the 41st minute.
The Japanese held on and occasionally caught the Ivorian defenders panting in a swift counter-attacking play.
Back from recess the Ivorians were still profligate in attack but the introduction of the former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba in the 61st minute proved a super substitution.
Barely a minute after entering Drogba made a rampaging run into the vital area and capped it with a cheeky back heel but Gervinho was slow to connect.
Two minutes later, Wilfried Bony dived in to connect a delectable cross on the right by Serge Aurier for what would easily be the most important goal for a golden generation filled with so much promise but empty on silverware.
In similar fashion and from the same provider on the right, Gervinho headed home a fine cross to beat the Japanese goalkeeper who until the goal had been a chief tormentor of the Ivorian attacker.
The victory would prove crucial for a side that is itching to make a statement at the world stage before the Drogba led generation finally hangs their boot.
They have Greece and Columbia to contend with in the other remaining matches in Group D.