RECIFE, Brazil: Japan’s technicians must try to outfox a powerful Ivory Coast as the Asian and African powerhouses meet in a clash of styles here today.
The Blue Samurai have established themselves as the leading force in Asia while the Ivorians’ rely on the power and driving runs of African Player of the Year Yaya Toure and exciting young full-back Serge Aurier.
Whether it is Japan’s guile or the Elephants’ physical force, whoever comes out on top in the Pernambuco Arena on Brazil’s north-east coast will put themselves in a fine position from which to go on and qualify for the last 16.
A group that also contains Greece and a Colombia side deprived of the injured Radamel Falcao could be one of the most open of this World Cup, but Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi is hopeful his side can progress.
“Our ambition is to go beyond the first phase as it is something the Ivory Coast have never managed before,” said the Frenchman, who is the youngest coach at the finals at the age of 42.
The Asian champions will look to the creative spark of Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda of AC Milan, but Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni will know his defence could struggle against the quality of DrogbaAFP