Drogba inspires Ivory Coast past Japan

13:06, Jun 16 2014
Teo Gutierrez
Teo Gutierrez celebrates Colombia's second goal in a 3-0 rout of Greece in Belo Horizonte.
James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez (bottom) celebrates Colombia's third goal against Greece.
Orestis Karnezis
Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis watches as Colombia's first goal rolls across the line.
Colombians
Colombia players dance in unison after their first goal in Belo Horizonte.
Giorgos Samaras
Greece's Giorgos Samaras holds the ball as Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga hassles him.
Panagiotis Kone
Greece's Panagiotis Kone reacts after missing an open shot.
Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast controls the ball against Keisuke Honda of Japan during their Group C match.
Celebration
The Ivory Coast celebrate their second goal scored by Gervinho during the Group C match between the Ivory Coast and Japan.
Yaya Toure
Maya Yoshida of Japan tackles Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast.
Japan fans
Supporters of Japan cheer during their 2014 World Cup Group C soccer match against Ivory Coast.
Japan goal
Keisuke Honda of Japan (2nd L) celebrates scoring the team's first goal with teammates during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C match between the Ivory Coast and Japan
Slide
Yuto Nagatomo of Japan tackles Gervinho of the Ivory Coast during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C match between the Ivory Coast and Japan
Teo Gutierrez
Teo Gutierrez high-fives team-mates after Juan Quintero made it 2-0 in the 70th minute against Ivory Coast.
Serge Aurier
Ivory Coast's Serge Aurier runs towards a big ball during the Group C match between Colombia and Ivory Coast.
Wilfried Bony
Colombia's Cristian Zapata watches as Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony jumps.
Colombia fans
Colombia fans celebrate Juan Quintero's goal during the Group C match between Colombia and Ivory Coast.
Vanishing spray
Referee Howard Webb of England sprays vanishing spray on the pitch during the Group C match between Colombia and Ivory Coast.
Juan Quintero
Colombia's Juan Quintero scores his team's second goal past Ivory Coast's goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.
Japan v Greece
Yoshito Okubo of Japan is challenged by Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Greece
Japan v Greece
Eiji Kawashima of Japan punches clear during the 2Group C match between Japan and Greece.
Japan v Greece
Greece's Giorgios Samaras commits a foul against Japan's Atsuto Uchida.
Japan v Greece
Japan's Yoshito Okubo reacts after missing a chance to score a goal during their Group C match against Greece.
Japan v Greece
Fans arrive before the Group C match between Japan and Greece.
Japan v Greece
Greece's Vasilis Torosidis heads the ball against Japan.
Colombia v Japan
Japan's Yoshito Okubo tries to score past Colombia's Carlos Valdes.
Colombia v Japan
Colombia's James Rodriguez scores their fourth goal against Japan.
Colombia v Japan
Japan's Keisuke Honda reacts after Colombia scored their fourth goal.
Colombia v Japan
Colombia's Santiago Arias (R) fights for the ball with Japan's Shinji Kagawa
Colombia v Japan
Yoshito Okubo of Japan and Eder Alvarez Balanta of Colombia.
Colombia v Japan
Colombia's goalkeeper David Ospina stops an attempt at goal as Japan's Yoshito Okubo jumps against Pablo Armero.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Greece's Giorgios Samaras goes down in the challenge of Ivory Coast's Giovanni Sio to win a penalty.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Greece's Giorgios Samaras consoles Ivory Coast's Boubacar Barry, after he scored a penalty past Barry.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Greece celebrate after defeating the Ivory Coast 2-1.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Serge Aurier of the Ivory Coast challenges Giorgos Samaras of Greece.
Greece v Ivory Coast
A general view of action as Giorgos Karagounis of Greece takes a free kick during the Group C match against the Ivory Coast.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony scores against Greece.

Two quickfire headed goals from Wilfried Bony and Gervinho helped Ivory Coast recover to beat Japan 2-1 today as their bid for a first appearance in the World Cup knockout stages got off to a fine start.

The African side trailed to a stunning Keisuke Honda strike in the first half, but the introduction of striker Didier Drogba off the bench proved the catalyst to turn the match on its head after the restart as they scored twice in three minutes.

The victory at the Pernambuco arena moved the Ivorians level on three points at the top of Group C with Colombia, who beat Greece 3-0 earlier today.

With coaches so often judged on their ability to make brave decisions, Ivory Coast's Sabri Lamouchi put his neck on the line by leaving out Drogba, for so long a talismanic presence in the lineup, in favour of the in-form Bony.

It looked a poor call as Japan had the better of the first half.

They were sharp and nimble in possession, working clever angles as they picked off their opponents' frequently misplaced passes and took the lead with a goal of genuine quality from Honda after 16 minutes.

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Collecting a pass across the box, he took one touch to shift it out of his feet and then drove it powerfully into the top corner with his left foot, before galloping away in celebration as blue hordes of Japanese fans celebrated deliriously.

The Elephants had their moments, with midfielder Yaya Toure showing occasional glimpses of his destructive powers, shifting through the gears with trademark bursts of raw energy.

Yet there was little killer instinct as half chances came and went, with Drogba prowling on the sidelines before entering the fray after 62 minutes.

The change had the desired impact on the Ivory Coast who levelled two minutes later when Bony leapt to glance a fizzing Serge Aurier cross into the far corner.

Two minutes later and another drilled Aurier centre was met this time by Gervinho who got in front of his marker to direct a header on goal that squirmed past Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who should have done better.

Reuters