Didier Drogba came off the bench to inspire Ivory Coast to a 2-1 comeback victory over Japan in a World Cup Group C match on Saturday. Drogba, who had been carrying an injury, came on in the 62nd minute when his team was losing 1-0.
The talismanic striker’s arrival immediately lifted the Ivory Coast team and Wilfried Bony and Gervinho scored with headers two minutes apart. Both goals were set up by curling crosses from defender Serge Aurier. Coach Sabri Lamouchi’s inspired substitution negated Keisuke Honda’s first half goal that had given Japan the lead in a group that also includes Colombia and Greece. Colombia beat Greece 3-0 earlier on Saturday.
The 36-year-old former Chelsea star started for Ivory Coast in the last two World Cups, but neither of those sides made it out of group play. He probably lacks the fitness to play 90 minutes these days, but his impact as a substitute can be dramatic, as was shown on a rainy night in Recife. Now the Ivory Coast is in good shape to advance to the second round for the first time. Next up is Colombia, the group leader by virtue of goal difference. That match is Thursday, as is Japan’s next test against Greece.
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BRASILIA: A goal deep in stoppage-time by Haris Seferovic gave Switzerland a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecuador in their Group E opener on Sunday. A low-quality match looked destined to end in a draw until substitute Seferovic fired home the winner from close range in the last of three minutes of injury time. Ecuador barely had time to restart before the final whistle was blown.
Enner Valencia had given Ecuador the lead in the 22nd minute. That came after abject defending and Switzerland’s equalizer in the 48th was in the same vein, Admir Mehmedi — another substitute — heading home from close range. It was the fifth time in nine matches so far at this World Cup that a team had come from behind to win.
After being among the bores of the last two World Cups, it was expected to be all change for Switzerland. Its young, dynamic class of 2014 that had come up together through the national youth ranks provided drama with the late, late goal but had offered little in the previous 92 minutes.
Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team did most of the attacking but lacked a cutting edge, leading the coach to change things around at halftime and introduce Mehmedi for Valentin Stocker. And the substitute made an instant impact.