Match Analysis: Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan

Match Analysis: Ivory Coast 2-1 Japan
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Sports Mole analyses the Ivory Coast's 2-1 win over Japan in their opening game of the World Cup.

The Ivory Coast opened their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Japan at the Arena Pernambuco on Saturday.

Les Elephants fell behind to an early strike from Keisuke Honda, but managed to rally in the second half as Wilfried Bony and Gervinho found the net to hand Sabri Lamouchi's side the three points.

Here, Sports Mole analyses the game to see if the Ivory Coast deserved their win.

Match statistics

Ivory Coast
Shots: 21
On target: 5
Possession: 58%
Corners: 8
Fouls: 12

Japan
Shots: 7
On target: 2
Possession: 42%
Corners: 5
Fouls: 13

Was the result fair?

The Ivory Coast deserved their victory as they showed great spirit after falling behind to Honda's strike in the 16th minute. They were unlucky not to equalise in the first half as they had a lot of play inside the Japan box, but were unable to find that one bit of quality in the final third.

That changed in the second half when Serge Aurier twice laid the ball on a plate for Bony and Gervinho to find the net. It could have been more for Lamouchi's side, but the Japanese were resolute at the back and kept the game entertaining until the final whistle.

Ivory Coast's performance

In truth, Les Elephants didn't deserve to go behind when Honda found the net. Japan made a decent start but were matched by Lamouchi's side for the majority of the first 45 minutes. Both sides had decent chances, but the AC Milan midfielder was the one who showed a clinical edge when inside the box.

That all changed in the second half when the Ivory Coast seemed to bustle Honda and Shinji Kagawa off the ball and began to dominate the game. Bony had a hatful of chances and a striker of his quality was bound to score eventually, as he did in the 64th minute.

When teams are smelling blood they usually get a second and that was what the Ivory Coast did through Gervinho. It could have been more as Lamouchi's men seemed to grow in confidence as the game wore on, with the impact of Didier Drogba from the bench lifting them and putting an extra touch of quality to their final ball. A good start for Lamouchi's side.

Japan's performance

The first 45 minutes will have pleased Alberto Zaccheroni as his team shaded the Ivory Coast thanks to Honda's goal. They had a good spell of five minutes after they scored where they could have doubled their lead, but didn't quite have the clinical edge they needed to go further ahead.

Defensively they were resolute as Maya Yoshida and Masato Morishige made several good challenges in their own box to keep their opponents at bay. However, in the second half they lost their grip on the match completely and were at the mercy of the finishing of Bony and co.

Eventually the Ivory Coast found their mark and made Japan pay, but there is plenty of positive signs for Zaccheroni to build on. However, his side need to ensure that they maintain their intensity for 90 minutes.

Sports Mole's man of the match

Serge Aurier: The right-back had an excellent game and enhanced his reputation no end with the performance. He was a threat down the right throughout the 90 minutes and could have had more than the two assists he notched in the second half had Bony and Gervinho been firing on all cylinders.

He was stout in defence and assured in possession as well. The 21-year-old is a reported target of Arsenal following the departure of Bacary Sagna, and the Gunners could have a player if they do move for him.

Biggest gaffe

Eiji Kawashima was having a good game for Japan until the 66th minute when he allowed Gervinho's header to slip through his grasp at the near post and into the net. He had made some decent stops until that point so it is hard to be overly critical of him, but that was the error that cost Zaccheroni's side the game.

Referee performance

Enrique Osses had a fine game at the Arena Pernambuco. The standard of officiating seems to be slowly improving at the World Cup and the Chilean continued that trend as he seemed to make all the correct decisions. One moment of debate occurred when Yaya Toure went down in the box under the challenge of Yoshida, but the official correctly ruled that the tackle was not a penalty.

What next?

Ivory Coast: Les Elephants take on Colombia on Thursday June 19 at the Estadio Nacional de Brasilia.

Japan: Zaccheroni's men face Greece on June 19 at the Estadio das Dunas.

Gervinho of the Ivory Coast celebrates scoring his team's second goal with teammate Didier Drogba during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C match between the Ivory Coast and Japan at Arena Pernambuco on June 14, 2014
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