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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test