IVORY COAST 2-1 JAPAN
SUNDAY 15TH JUNE – RECIFE
A below par Japan were ultimately undone by familiar deficiencies, namely their complete inability to defend cross balls, but in truth their overall performance merited nothing more than defeat against the Elephants of the Ivory Coast.
Keisuke Honda’s thunderous opening goal was a moment to savour for Japan fans in Recife but thereafter, Zaccheronis men played as a pale imitation of the sophisticated passing team we know they can be, demonstrating their technical qualities only in intermittent flashes.
The game turned completely in a ninety second period, Serge Aurier delivering two superb assists for Wilfried Bony and Gervinho, to head beyond Kawashima and put Ivory Coast in control, but even when Japan were ahead there had been an element of desperation about their defending.
The Ivory Coast demonstrated their formidable power and physical advantage at every opportunity and Yamaguchi and Morishige were forced into last ditch tackles and blocks throughout the first half. That said, Uchida had an opportunity to put Japan out of sight in the 20th minute but his shot was parried.
Japans top scorer, Shinji Okazaki, operated on the periphery of the game while Osako scarcely touched the ball and was unable to influence proceedings. Surprisingly, and to the detriment of their attacking fluidity, Kagawa and Hondas passing accuracy deserted them in almost every counter attack they initiated while their opponents played with a force and purpose they simply could not equal. Bony had ample opportunity to get on the scoresheet before his leveller and the late introduction of Drogba caused further consternation to the already overworked central defensive duo of Morishige and Yoshida.
Drogba might have scored himself in the latter stages and Kalou may also have put further gloss on the scoreline. Yoshida was perhaps fortunate not to concede a penalty for a rash intervention on Yaya Toure who had burst into the box in a convulsion of energy and galloping strides.
Japan must absorb the lesson but the impression of a team with a soft centre is now fully formed. Zaccheroni challenge is to ensure their interplay from middle to front is of a higher standard against Greece, in order to relieve the pressure on the defence if nothing else.
As for the victors, they say elephants never forget and the match will be especially memorable for the match winning trio of Aurier, Bony and Gervinho. Their next clash, against an equally robust and imposing Colombia, should be one to savour.
IVORY COAST: Barry, Boka (Djakpa 75), Aurier, Bamba, Zokora, Tiote, Yaya Toure, Serey Die (Drogba 62), Kalou, Gervinho, Bony (Ya Konan 78).
GOALS: Bony 64, Gervinho 66.
BOOKINGS: Bamba 54, Zokora 58.
JAPAN: Kawashima, Uchida, Nagatomo, Morishige, Yoshida, Yamaguchi, Hasebe (Endo 54), Honda, Okazaki, Osako (Okubo 68), Kagawa (Kakitani 86).
GOALS: Honda 16.
BOOKINGS: Morishige 64.
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