World Cup 2014: Muscle versus pace as Ivory Coast meets Japan




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World Cup 2014: Muscle versus pace as Ivory Coast meets Japan

It’s a contest brawn and bravado against pace and finesse.
The muscular Ivory Coast team could not be more different at first glance from the compact Blue Samurai of Japan.
One thing the two teams meeting in Saturday’s opening Group C match have in common: crowd-pleasing flair translates into goals.
Neither are footballing giants but both contain their share of genuine stars: Manchester City’s Yaya Toure and former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba for Ivory Coast, AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa for Japan.

Ivory Coast have age going against them: Toure is 31, Drogba 36 and defender Didier Zokora is 33 , making them old men in footballing terms. Toure is coming off a grueling league campaign with Manchester City, where he won the Premier League, and suffered a hamstring injury in the last match of the season.

“He’s still in a recovery phase and everything’s going well,” said Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi. “But he’s not yet at 100 percent.”

Japan are younger and possesses boundless reserves of energy but have shown baffling spells of inconsistency. They have honed a dangerous attack under Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni yet succumb to sudden defensive lapses – something for which the Africans will surely look to punish them.

Zaccheroni acknowledges that Japan need to on their “concentration” – but insists that letting in goals is the price to be paid for a football style geared at scoring them.

“If you score three goals against Belgium you must be prepared to give up a couple,” Zaccheroni said, referring to a thrilling November friendly in which Japan edged a strong Belgian side 3-2 on opponent turf.

The two teams are widely seen as being on equal footing. And the group itself, which also includes Greece and Colombia, has no clear favorites to get through to the knockout stages.

“I consider the group to be very balanced” said Zaccheroni. “We have all more or less the same chances of success.”

Japan will be hoping that their top stars Honda and Kagawa, who both had disappointing league seasons, will find their form in the World Cup. They are an imaginative duo who are a threat any opponent when at the top of their game.

Honda said Japan have what it takes to go far.

“We want to reach the top,” he told reporters after a Wednesday training session. “There are other teams that are clearly stronger than Japan, but we have shown many times that we can beat those big teams and I want to do that here.”

Ivory Coast will be hoping that Toure, the heart of their team, will be match fit.

“Wait until Saturday, June 14 to see if Yaya will play,” said Lamouchi.

Another key will be whether Drogba, a declining superstar who now plays for Galatasaray in Turkey, can find one last spurt of genius in the world’s greatest tournament.

This will not be a glamour match but football fans may be advised to tune in.

With their pulsating football styles, Japan and Ivory Coast will be ready to put on quite a show.

And it’s impossible to predict who will win. (IBN Live)

 

World Cup 2014: Greece out to clip Colombia’s attacking wings

Containing Colombia’s potent attacking game, even without injured striker Radamel Falcao, will be key to defensive-minded Greece’s attempt to upset the World Cup Group C favourites on Saturday.
The Greeks, who also play Japan and Ivory Coast in the group, have long said their first game will be the most crucial one with Colombia, who finished second in the South American qualifiers after a superb campaign, seen as the team to beat.
“We have it in our own hands to beat them,” said Greece’s versatile defender Giorgos Tzavellas. “Colombia will have to find a way to score against us and that will be very difficult and I hopeful we will win this game. This first game is extremely important.”
Greece, who 10 years ago staged a major upset by becoming European champions, have forged a reputation as a hard-working defensive team, conceding just four goals in their 10 qualifiers.