Zee Media Bureau/Jayanta Oinam
Ivory Coast registered their third win in the World Cup coming from behind. The introduction of Didier Drogba did the trick for the team.
The Elephants were the better side. Attacked relentlessly from both the flanks, especially Serge Aurier. His two telling crosses settled the issue in their favour.
90+6' - FULL-TIME. Ivory Coast 2 - 1 Japan.
90+5' - Referee helped Didier Ya Konan on his feat. He is injured, walking wounded towards the touchline.
90+3' - Yaya Toure survived a close call as he tackled a Japanese player in their own half. Bad challenge.
90' - Four minutes added. Didier Ya Konan rested on the ground, holding his knee cap, feigning pain.
89' - Gentle push for a corner from the Africans, and the exchanges in the far corner eat up time, as a desolate looking Alberto Zaccheroni languor around on the sidelines.
88' - Ivory Coast players are happy to pass around. Then from a counter attack, they won a corner.
87' - Some rough challenges in the centre as both the teams suffered. After a couple quick exchanges of possession, Ivory Coast got a goal kick.
86' - Japan SUB. Kagawa replaced by Yoichiro Kakitani.
85' - Gervinho caught offside from a free run.
84' - Drogba missed a golden chance by a whisker. His low drive got deflected for a corner.
83' - Ivory Coast won a free kick as Drogba was tackled.
82' - With some 10 minutes to the game, Ivory Coast continue to press hard for another goal.
80' - Masato Morishige tackled Enrique Osses. Free kick for Ivory Coast.
78' - Ivory Coast SUB.Didier Ya Konan on for Wilfried Bony.
74' - Close saved for Ivory Coast as Japan, from a throw in, found the ball inside the box.
73' - Ivory Coast SUB. Constant Djakpa on for the injured Boka.
72' - Uchida offside.
71' - Stuttgart defender Arthur Boka stretched off, possibly from a mustle strain.
69' - A scrappy moment from the Africans as Honda was brought down just outside their goalmouth.
68' - Ivory Coast 2 - 1 Japan. The Asian side will need all their might to come back in this game as Ivory Coast are enjoying a brilliant period of play in the centre.
67' - Japan SUB. Yoshito Okubo on for Yuya Osako.
66' - Two GOALS in two minutes. Two assists from Serge Aurier, with Gervinho heading the second one. A poor effort from the Japan goalie though.
65' - Drogba's introduction certainly worked for the Elephants.
64' - Bony has equalised. Perfect delivery from Serge Aurier.
63' - Masato Morishige booked for a late challenge on Drogba.
62' - Japan regained the possession after some nervy moments.
60' - At the hour mark, Drogba finally arrived. He replaced Serey Die. What an impact. Almost created a goal scoring chance for his team.
59' - Greta run from Yuto Nagamato, supported by Endo and Kagawa. But Ivory Coast won a free kick in their own half in the play.
58' - From the replay, Japan survived an anxious moment as a low delivery from the left side sail across the goalmouth.
57' - Yaya Toure tumbled inside the Japan box and his team-mate got booked for showing dissent to the ref.
56' - Honda once again involved in a play. He released a through pass for Kagawa, but the delivery was bit faster for the Man Utd player.
55' - Honda's delivery was cleared by Bony from the wall.
54' - Sol Bamba booked for a late tangle on the Japanese playmaker Shinji Okazaki. Free-kick for Japan in the Ivory Coast half.
53' - Japan SUB Captain Makoto Hasebe out, Yasuhito Endo in.
51' - Maya Yoshida played it safe, heading a back-pass to his goalie as multiple Ivory Coast players rushed in the Japan half.
50' - Hotaru Yamaguchi tried a long ranger from the top of the Ivory Coast D, but it sailed over the bar.
48' - Makoto Hasebe earned a free-kick after Salomon Kalou pushed the midfielder to the ground in the Ivory Coast half.
47' - Wilfred Bony missed a chance to score as his header sailed wide of the goal-post following a quick attack from Ivory Coast.
46' - Ivory Coast started the half with precision passing. After few passing around, Japan got their own, with Kagawa jostling with defenders inside the African half.
Ivory Coast enjoyed greater ball possession and have had greater attempt. But found themselves trailing after a brilliant Honda goal from a Nagamato assist early in the half.
Six shots off the target sums up Ivory Coast's futility in attack. For Japan, its three on target from three attempts.
Yoshida is the only player to get into the referee's book.
45+1' - HALF-TIME Ivory Coast 0 - 1 Japan
44' - Ivory Coast are enjoying the majority of the possession as the first half approaches the break. Japanese goalkeeper has made few good saves in the dying minutes.
43' - Japanese players are running in hordes as Ivory Coast change the flanks with relative ease. From one such switch, Yaya Toure produced a cross from the right flank, only to see a Japanese player blocking it.
42' - Salomon Kalou seemed to struggle a bit, but he is fine now. And did try to head home for a goal but his attempt was only a skier. Goal kick for Japan.
41' - Wilfried Bony tried to curl one inside the Japan box but a block deflected the ball for a throw in for Ivory Coast.
40' - Serge Aurier tackled Kagawa. Japan won a free-kick.
39' - Nice interplay between Yaya Toure and Gervinho but their attempt was blocked by an alert Japan defender. Their best chance so far.
38' - Cheick Tiote joined hands with his fellow defenders as Japanese players withdrew, then launched the ball into the Japan half.
36' - Japan quickly launched a counter attack with Honda taking a shot at the goal but could only earned a corner.
35' - From the following play, Japanese goalie produced a valiant save.
35' - Bony released Gervinho with a through pass, but Juventus player's attempt was blocked by a Japanese player for a corner.
33' - Throw in for Ivory Coast.
32' - Good run by Boka on the right flank, but soon Japan intercepted the play to launch their own attack.
30' - Boka took a left footed attempt from the free kick but his swerved tantalizingly over the bar.
29' - Shinji Okazaki and Gervinho collided inside the Japan half, resulting in a free kick for the Africans.
28' - Goal-kick for Japan. From the Eiji Kawashima kick, Ivory Coast won the possession, in the centre.
26' - Yaya Toure found himself overcrowded in the Japanese box. He complained for a handball but ref asked to carry on. Good chance for the Africans to equalise. Moments ago, Boka blocked a dangerous looking Japan run in front of the Ivory Coast box.
24' - Arthur Boka intercepted a dangerous looking play from the Japanese in the Ivory Coast half.
22' - Yaya Toure's attempt sailed over the bar.
21' - As forecast-ed, it's raining. In between, Maya Yoshida booked for a clumsy looking challenge of Serey Die. Free-kick for Ivory Coast, just outside the D.
20' - Atsuto Uchida almost doubled the lead, with a left footed shot inside the Ivory Coast box. But his attempt resulted into a corner, then from the play... a throw-in.
19' - Shinji Okazaki tripped Gervinho on the left sideline. Free kick for Ivory Coast.
17' - Then, after the quick replay Serey Die blocked Honda, A bad challenge. Ref warned the Ivory Coast midfielder.
16' - And GOAL!!! What a strike from Keisuke Honda, from the outside of the box. Boubacar Barry was unmoved. One strike, one goal for the Blue Samurai.
16' - Shinji Okazaki almost scored from the corner as he flicked a low header, but the ball went out of play for a throw-in.
15' - Corner for Japan as Serge Aurier played to safety.
14' - First free kick of the match, Shinji Okazaki was fouled by Cheick Tiote in the centre line.
13' - Good switch for Japan, as Hasabe lofts a ball in the African half from right to left.
12' - Ivory Coast players are using the width of the field to draw Japanese players. But the Asians are happy to wait.
11'- Kagawa lost possession in the centre as Bony swerved his legs to good effect.
9' - Nice little skill on display from Shinji Okazaki. But his tricks on the far corner failed to create any tangible chance for his team. Goal kick for Ivory Coast.
8' - With Ivory Coast frontline enjoying extended possession, Japanese are sitting deep inside their half.
6' - Gervinho, with his persistence, won a throw in for the Africans. But in the following play, Japan tried to open the midfield but Kagawa was obstructed in the centre line. No call from the referee.
5' - Japan's short possession was followed by a swift counter attack by Ivory Coast with Bony trying a right footer. But his attempt was deflected from a Japanese defender for the second corner of the match.
4' - Africans are enjoying this opening possession. But Japan won their first throw in.
3' - Corner for the Africans as a build-up involving Yaya Toure was cut short by a Japanese defender, heading out of the field, for the corner.
2' - First touch for Boubacar Barry as Kagawa's attempt reaches the Ivory Coast goalmouth rather meekly.
1' - Japan, who were the first team qualify for the tournament besides hosts Brazil, started the proceedings from the centre. And quickly, Ivory Coast won the first throw-in.
Big surprise is Bony getting the nod ahead of Drogba. And in Drogba's absence, Yaya is leading the Elephants, which means the Man City player is fit.
Players assembled for their national anthems. Japan are in all blue, while Ivory Coast in all orange.
Enrique Osses will officiate the match. The 40-year-old Chilean was once floored by Union Espanola goal-keeper Ignacio Gonzalez for a sending off in 2005.
Playing XI's are out:
Ivory Coast:1-Boubacar Barry, 3 - Arthur Boka, 5 - Didier Zokora, 8 - Salomon Kalou, 9 - Cheick Tiote, 10 - Gervinho, 12 - Wilfried Bony, 17 - Serge Aurier, 19 - Yaya Toure, 20 - Serey Die, 22 - Sol Bamba
SUBS: 11 - Didier Drogba, 4 - Kolo Toure, 21 - Giovanni Sio, 13 - Didier Ya Konan, 15 - Max Gradel, 18 - Constant Djakpa, 6 - Mathis Bolly, 14 - Ismael Diomande, 7 - Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro, 16 - Sylvain Gbohouo, 23 - Sayouba Mande
Japan:1 - Eiji Kawashima, 2 - Atsuto Uchida, 4- Keisuke Honda, 5 - Yuto Nagamato, 6 - Masato Morishige, 9 - Shinji Okazaki, 10 - Shinji Kagawa, 16 - Hotaru Yamaguchi, 17 - Makoto Hasebe, 18 - Yuya Osako, 22 - Maya Yoshida
SUBS: 7 - Yasuhito Endo, 13 - Yoshito Okubo, 14 - Toshihiro Aoyama, 15 - Yasuyuki Konno, 11 - Yoichiro Kakitani, 12 - Shusaku Nishikawa, 23 - Shuichi Gonda, 19 - Masahiko Inoha, 20 - Manabu Saito, 21 - Hiroki Sakai, 8 - Hiroshi Kiyotake, 3 - Gotoku Sakai
After Columbia humbled Greece in the Group C opener, the focus is on the two remaining teams in the group. The match-up between Ivory Coast and Japan will provide a clear view on the probable sides advancing to the next round.
In their last three meetings, Japan have won twice. But those two wins were way back in 2008. The African side won their last meeting in 2010 comfortably.
On the current form, both the sides carry strong squad and the meeting in Recife will be a high-octane one. Japan are looking for a back-to-back Round of 16 qualification and the third time in the last four World Cups. For the Elephants, however, they have suffered early exits in the previous editions mainly due to the clubbing in strong groups.
Considering the presence of players like Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast will start as the favourites. But a technically sound Blue Samurai cannot be discounted in any tournament.