This is surely the last chance for Ivory Coast’s golden generation, who will be looking to get their campaign off to a winning start, but they come up against a talented Japan team who many are tipping to do well in Brazil.
Japan have won all of their last five matches, including a 3-2 victory over a good Belgium side, and they will be looking to carry this form into their group opener against the Ivory Coast. With a group of technically gifted players such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, and proven goal scorer Shinji Okazaki who has 38 international goals to his name, Japan have one of their most promising squads in recent times. Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni has a good record since taking over as manager, and he will be confident that this exciting group of players can take away a good result from their opening match.
FIFA’s highest ranked African side will have something to say about this however, and they definitely have the players capable of performing on the biggest stage, with a squad packed full of stars from Europe’s top leagues. Despite this, Ivory Coast have never progressed from the group stages of the World Cup, and this is a record they will be looking to change in Brazil. A powerful team led by the former Chelsea man Didier Drogba and Manchester City’s player of the year Yaya Toure, this Ivory Coast team could prove too strong for the Japanese in what is sure to be an enthralling encounter between two exciting, attacking sides desperate to qualify from their group.
KICK-OFF: Sunday, 2am
PAST THREE MEETINGS…
Japan 0 Ivory Coast 2, International Friendly, June 2010
Japan 1 Ivory Coast 0, International Friendly, May 2008
Japan 1 Ivory Coast 0, International Friendly, October 1993
Ivory Coast: Group C team profile
Ivory Coast: Group C team profile
1/5 How they qualified
Ivory Coast limped into the World Cup finals in Brazil with a 4-2 aggregate win over Senegal in the African World Cup play-offs. After dominating Group C with an unbeaten record in the preliminary qualifying rounds – winning four and drawing two – the Elephants were handed a two-legged showdown against Alain Giresse’s Senegal and claimed a 3-1 victory in their home stadium. Senegal took a one-goal lead in the second leg, leaving Ivory Coast’s qualification in the balance as the hosts went in search of a 2-0 victory which would secure them a World Cup berth on away goals. But Salomon Kalou spared Ivory Coast further anxiety when he levelled the scores on the night to ensure Ivory Coast’s passage to the World Cup.
Sabri Lamouchi took charge of the Ivory Coast in 2012 to mark his first job in management. His controversial appointment was met with disapproval in some quarters after former boss François Zahoui was sensationally dismissed from the role. Lamouchi’s inexperience only heightened the discontent that arose in the wake of Ivory Coast’s managerial shake-up, while calls for continuity at the top fell on deaf ears. The incoming former France international enjoyed a rich playing career that included stints at Monaco, Marseille and Inter Milan. But his reputation was not enhanced by the Elephants performance at the Africa Cup of Nations early in 2013, which he himself branded a ‘failure’.
3/5 Star player
It was during the Ivory Coast’s inaugural FIFA World Cup appearance in 2006 when Yaya Toure first made his potential apparent. Despite Ivory Coast’s failure to clamber out of the group stages, Toure impressed and secured a switch from Olympiakos to Monaco in August 2006, a move which triggered his march from strength to strength. The box-to-box midfielder later enjoyed a spell at Barcelona before he settled at Manchester City – gathering plenty of silverware in the process. Toure has three times been named African Player of the Year and is lauded for his versatility. The 30 –year-old complements a potent attacking threat with industrious defensive displays and an impressive ability to transition between both.
4/5 Emerging talent
Right-back Serge Aurier is reportedly a transfer target for Arsene Wenger as he sets about locating a strong replacement for Bacary Sagna. Aurier showed great potential from a young age and made his Ligue 1 debut aged just 16 when playing for Lens. The 20-year-old moved to Toulouse in 2012 - despite interest from Premier League clubs such as Manchester City and Sunderland - and immediately made a place in the starting 11 his own. Aurier made his international debut in June 2013 and has represented the Ivory Coast seven times, including both legs against Senegal in the decisive two-legged play-off that confirmed Ivory Coast’s World Cup berth.
5/5 Formation (4-3-3)
Barry; Aurier, Bamba Souleymane, K Toure, Boka; Tiote, Serey Die, Y Toure; Gervinho, Drogba, Kalou
This fixture has never ended in a draw, with two wins for Japan and one win for Ivory Coast.
Japan’s Yasuhito Endo is the second most capped player in the World Cup with 144 international appearances.
Japan haven’t lost a match since October 2013.
Ivory Coast have three players with over 100 caps, Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora and Didier Drogba.
Ivory Coast have six players with fewer than five caps in their squad.
Ivory Coast have never won their opening World Cup game.
Ivory Coast to win: 2.63
Japan to win: 3.00
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