Ivory Coast 2 Japan 1 match report: Didier Drogba inspires comeback win with Wilfried Bony and Gervinho on target for the Elephants

African side were a goal down when talismanic striker entered the fray and inspired two goals in two minutes after Keisuke Honda gave Japan the lead

Didier Drogba came off the bench to inspire Ivory Coast to a 2-1 comeback victory over Japan in their World Cup Group C match.

Drogba, who had been carrying an injury, came on in the 62nd minute with his team was losing 1-0.

Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi said it was "very correct to say when Didier Drogba came on the pitch, everything changed."

"You could see that it was very influential when he was on the pitch," Lamouchi said, highlighting the attention Drogba drew from Japanese defenders. "He created space for the players."

A mere two minutes after the talismanic striker's arrival, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho scored with headers two minutes apart. Both goals were set up by curling crosses from defender Serge Aurier. Keisuke Honda scores the opener for Japan with a powerful strike

"It's true that after (Drogba) came in, they had more confidence," said Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. "It changed the match."

Lamouchi's inspired substitution negated Keisuke Honda's first half goal that had given Japan the lead in Group C. Colombia beat Greece 3-0 earlier in the Group's other game.

"I didn't think we were able to play as quickly as we normally play and needed to do," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said. "We really have to take stock of the situation rather quickly."

The 36-year-old former Chelsea star started for Ivory Coast in the last two World Cups, but neither of those sides made it out of group play. He probably lacks the fitness to play 90 minutes these days, but his impact as a substitute can be dramatic, as was shown on a rainy night in Recife.

"It's a beautiful victory. We are happy with the result. It's important to start well," Drogba said. "One can only be disappointed not to start a World Cup match, but I must respect those who did start. ... If we can say I had an impact on the match, that much better. It's important for me to add an advantage to the team."

Read more: Colombia 3 Greece 0: Rodriguez and Co lead toothless Greeks on a merry dance

Lamouchi said it wasn't easy for him to leave Drogba on the bench from the start, but credited Drogba for the way he handled the decision.

"To see the joy he experienced at the end of the match ... I am convinced he's a champion and we need him," Lamouchi said.

Now the Ivory Coast is in good shape to advance to the second round for the first time. Next up is Colombia, the group leader on goal difference. That match is Thursday, as is Japan's next test against Greece.

"We have to keep morale high because we know we can play better," Zaccheroni said.

Japan had the better of the play in the first half, taking the lead through Honda's left-footed strike from about 12 yards in the 16th minute.

Yuto Nagatomo slid a pass across the edge of the penalty area to Honda, who struck the ball cleanly with his right foot before belting his 21st international goal under the cross bar and inside the near post.

Japan had several chances to widen their lead in the opening 45 minutes, and will rue missing them. Wilfried Bony heads home for Ivory Coast to make it 1-1

Just minutes after Honda's goal, Japan defender Atsuto Uchida made a run down the right and unloaded a point-blank shot that Ivory Coast goalkeeper Boubacar Barry parried. Honda's curling shot from the edge of the penalty area soon after forced Barry to make a leaping save.

Ivory Coast dominated the second half but the sluggish-looking team was making little headway until the arrival of Drogba galvanised it. Within minutes, Bony's angled header found the goal and then Gervinho scored with a near post header that Kawashima should have saved.

Japan could not make any impression on the Ivory Coast defense in the remaining 20 minutes.

The game marked the World Cup debut for Lamouchi, a 42-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent who was widely seen as a surprise hire in 2012. It was also an unpopular move among fans in the Ivory Coast, who favored a more experienced coach for a team which has been to the previous two World Cups, and which has a number of players who have flourished in Europe's top professional leagues.

AP

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition