Ivory Coast vs. Japan
2014 FIFA World Cup
June 14 | 9 pm ET | Arena Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil
TV: ESPN, Univision, CBC in Canada
Two recent World Cup mainstays looking to make their big move on the world stage square off on Saturday night. Japan are making their fifth World Cup appearance but have yet to advance past the Round of 16, while the Ivory Coast failed to advance out of the group stage in each of the last two World Cups.
Considering their Group C competition, favored Colombia and a scrappy Greece team that always seems to rise to the international occasion, both Japan and Ivory Coast will be playing for a win in the hopes of taking a major step toward the second round.
NO YAYA? Ivory Coast’s star midfielder Yaya Touré, the reigning African Player of the Year, is doubtful for this match, Elephants head coach Sabri Lamouchi told the Ivorian press on Tuesday. The 31-year-old Manchester City star is still struggling with a hamstring injury suffered in the English Premier League title deciding win over West Ham on the last day of the league season. Bad luck for a team counting on his contributions as they look to advance out of the group stage for the first time.
LAST CHANCE SALOON: For Ivory Coast’s plus-30 stars -- Touré, Didier Drogba and Didier Zokora -- this could be their last World Cup together and their last chance to show Ivory Coast can make an impact beyond Africa.
YOU AGAIN? Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda, coming off a relatively disappointing season with AC Milan, is back for more at the World Cup after a breakout performance at the 2010 tournament, where he scored two goals and assisted on another to lead Japan to their first two World Cup wins on foreign soil and out of their group.
THE STAR YOU KNOW
- Didier Drogba, forward, Ivory Coast – This will certainly be the last hoorah for the 36-year-old former Chelsea striker. He rose to prominence on the international stage in leading the Ivorians to their first World Cup in 2006, and now he’s back for a third time, hoping to elevate the Elephants past the group stage for the first time.
THE PLAYER WHO WILL SURPRISE YOU
- Shinji Okazaki, forward, Japan – The FSV 05 striker became the highest scoring Japanese player in the Bundesliga for a season with 15 goals this past season. With playmakers like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa running the show, Okazaki could be primed for a big World Cup.