Gervinho the hero as Ivory Coast see off Honda’s Japan
Posted Sunday, June 15 2014 at 18:05
he relationship between Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi and Drogba has never been one of a father and son. It has inaudibly been a frosty one, with the coach going as far as dropping the talisman during the qualification campaign.
Rio de Janeiro- Didier Drogba did not start. Without him the Elephants of Ivory Coast played without conviction and not surprisingly went a goal down to Keisuke Honda’s close range rocket.
It took the introduction of Ivory Coast’s all-time goalscorer for Japan to wilt.
That is the dream of any coach; gambling with big decisions and being vindicated.
The relationship between Frenchman Sabri Lamouchi and Drogba has never been one of a father and son. It has inaudibly been a frosty one, with the coach going as far as dropping the talisman during the qualification campaign.
Lamouchi hailed Drogba’s contribution in Recife even if the player neither assisted nor scored.
“When Drogba came on the pitch, everything changed,” he acknowledged.
His team’s equaliser and winner, which were scored minutes apart, were manufactured and finished in similar fashion.
The source was Toulouse defender Sergie Aurier, deservedly named Man of The Match, whose two crosses were expertly headed in by Wilfred Bony and Gervinho.
The weight and curve on the deliveries from Aurier were delicious; Bony finishing at the far post, Gervinho at the near.
Bony has lived in the shadow of Drogba for a while but with the latter at 36, Lamouchi was right to entrust the Swansea striker with the attacking responsibility on the back of his superb season in England.
Gervinho is a player capable of the sublime and ridiculous but likewise, he had a good season at Roma and fully justified his place.The waning Drogba nevertheless remains a physical specimen whose introduction on the hour created self-doubt in the Japan defence.
Until then, they had smothered the threat of Yaya Toure with Makato Hasebe marshalling the Japan rear comfortably. Japan have themselves solely to blame after mismanaging possession in the final third of the pitch. Playmaker Shinji Kagawa was lacklustre.
Why Alberto Zaccheroni, the Japan coach, withdrew Hasebe for Yakushito Endo is question only he can answer.
Right on cue Lamouche put Drogba on the pitch in the 62nd minute. Bony levelled in the 64th before Gervino won it in the 66th minute.
The Ivorians will be buoyed by a useful victory in a group that the West Africans are happy to be placed.
Cameroon and Greece are their opponents who don’t possess that aura to intimidate them. At the last World Cup, Drogba and company were grouped with Brazil and Portugal. They were always going to be rank outsiders. True to form they finished third, their only victory being against the minnows of North Korea.
At Germany 2006, the Ivorians had been in the same group as Argentina, Netherlands and Serbia. They played only three games and departed.
With one win under their belt, they must fancy their chances of reaching the second round for the first time in their history.
Their next game is in Brasilia on Thursday against Colombia.