Drogba inspires Ivory Coast to 2-1 win over Japan

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 15, 2014 at 1:30 am •  Published: June 15, 2014
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RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — Didier Drogba came off the bench to inspire Ivory Coast to a 2-1 comeback victory over Japan in a World Cup Group C match on Saturday.

Drogba, who had been carrying an injury, came on in the 62nd minute when his team was losing 1-0.

Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi said it was "very correct to say when Didier Drogba came on the pitch, everything changed."

"You could see that it was very influential when he was on the pitch," LaMouchi said, highlighting the attention Drogba drew from Japanese defenders. "He created space for the players."

A mere two minutes after the talismanic striker's arrival, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho scored with headers two minutes apart. Both goals were set up by curling crosses from defender Serge Aurier.

"It's true that after (Drogba) came in, they had more confidence," said Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. "It changed the match."

Lamouchi's inspired substitution negated Keisuke Honda's first half goal that had given Japan the lead in a group that also includes Colombia and Greece. Colombia beat Greece 3-0 earlier on Saturday.

"I didn't think we were able to play as quickly as we normally play and needed to do," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said. "We really have to take stock of the situation rather quickly."

The 36-year-old former Chelsea star started for Ivory Coast in the last two World Cups, but neither of those sides made it out of group play. He probably lacks the fitness to play 90 minutes these days, but his impact as a substitute can be dramatic, as was shown on a rainy night in Recife.

"It's a beautiful victory. We are happy with the result. It's important to start well," Drogba said. "One can only be disappointed not to start a World Cup match, but I must respect those who did start. ... If we can say I had an impact on the match, that much better. It's important for me to add an advantage to the team."

Lamouchi said it wasn't easy for him to leave Drogba on the bench from the start, but credited Drogba for the way he handled the decision.

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