Japan and Côte d’Ivoire met in a rainy Recife for the fourth and final match of the day on June 14th in both team’s Group C opener. Despite the 97% humidity both teams showed energy in the attack to begin the game and Japan took an early lead in the 16th minute with a powerful shot from Keisuke Honda who worked himself around several Ivory Coast defenders and into the penalty area. Honda who was a standout performer of World Cup 2010 continued his strong legacy in this competition.
The first half ended with both teams splitting possession times. Japan’s Maya Yoshida was given a yellow card in the 22nd minute for sticking his leg out to take down Die Serey who had a counter-attacking opportunity. Côte d’Ivoire’s Arthur Boka had an excellent opportunity on goal with a rocket of a kick from outside the area, but was knocked away by Japan’s goalie, Eiji Kawashima. After Kawashima knocked the ball away Wilfried Bony had a chance to equalize but tripped before gaining control of the ball.
The Elephants looked frustrated with their lack of offense heading into halftime and continued to struggle up front as they were unable to decisively break down Japan. Didier Drogba entered the game for Serey and the Ivory Coast found some new energy.
Wilfred Bony scored on a cross giving the Elephants an equalizing goal in the 64th minute and two minutes later the Elephants took the lead with a header from Gervinho. Both teams continued to exchange chances throughout the remaining 30 minutes as the match was stretched from end to end.
With the win Côte d’Ivoire gain three valuable points in a very open Group C and take on Colombia next on Thursday June 19th in Brasilia, while Japan will face Greece in Natal on the same day.