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Saturday, 14 June 2014

Cote d'Ivoire - Japan Preview: Africans looking to improve on recent World Cup outings

Cote d'Ivoire - Japan Preview: Africans looking to improve on recent World Cup outings

Cote d'Ivoire are looking to open their third consecutive World Cup finals with a victory as they meet Japan in the first game of the tournament in Brazil.

The Elephants reached the 2006 and 2010 finals but were eliminated at the group stages after finishing third each time and having failed to win their opening game each time.

With the golden generation of Yaya and Kolo Toure, Didier Drogba and Didier Zokora all over 30, this could be their final appearance at the summer showpiece and they have failed to win a single international title.

The Africans must contest Group C with Greece, Colombia and Japan, as they look to progress into the second round for the first time, and kick off the tournament against Alberto Zaccheroni's side.

The two sides have only met three times, with Japan emerging victorious twice while Ivory Coast won their most recent meeting in a friendly four years ago.

While the Ivorians have big-named stars such as Toure, Drogba, Gervinho, Wilfried Bony and Salomon Kalou, Japan have high-profile players too, in Hiroshi Kiyotake, Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki. 

The teams are completely different in style. Japan are a youthful, agile and fast-paced team but are somewhat vulverable defensively, which the muscly and experienced Ivorians will look to capitalise on.

And Kolo Toure insists his side have learned lessons from their last two World Cups and are ready to improve on their group stage eliminations.

"In 2006 we were in dreamland," Toure told Fifa's official website. "It was the first time our country had ever qualified for such a big competition. We were naive and we didn’t focus enough on the job in hand.
"In 2010 I felt we were a little bit stronger, thanks to the experience we’d had four years earlier. We were more determined when we went to South Africa but it was not enough. We have made some progress, though, and it’s good for us to have survivors from the last two World Cups in the team today. 

"We’ve learned the lessons of the past and we’re making sure we pass on our knowledge to the younger players."

Opta Facts

  • Two of Japan's previous four World Cup wins have come in their only two previous meetings with African sides (2-0 v Tunisia in 2002 and 1-0 v Cameroon in 2010).
  • Despite going out in the “Group of Death” in their only two previous tournaments, Ivory Coast have the best goals/game average of any African side at World Cups (1.5).
  • Didier Drogba has only had two shots on target in 384 minutes at the World Cup, with both ending up in the back of the net.
  • Keisuke Honda has been directly involved in three of Japan's last four World Cup strikes (two goals, one assist).
  • Shinji Okazaki was the top scorer in the 2014 Asian World Cup qualifiers (8 goals). He is also the last Japanese player to net in the finals (against Denmark on 24 June 2010).
  • The Elephants were unbeaten in 2014 World Cup qualification, winning five and drawing three.
  • These sides have met three times before, all in friendlies; Japan won the first two 1-0, before Ivory Coast won 2-0 in the most recent meeting in 2010.
  • Ivory Coast are appearing in their third successive World Cup; Ghana are the only other current African side who can match this.

Match Preview

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World Cup
Côte d'Ivoire v. Japan
15 Jun 02:00 - Arena Pernambuco
Games played: 0
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