Saturday night appears to have been a night of double whammys as, in this Group C match at the Arena Pernambuco, Ivory Coast beat Japan by two goals to nil. The first drama to the match was well before the match started when the Ivorian bench announced that inspirational veteran and captain Didier Drogba would not be in their starting line-up. This then shifted focus to Swansea striker Wilfred Bony to lead the African attack with the capable assistance of former Chelsea and former Arsenal players, Salmon Kalou and Yao Gervinho respectively.
As early as the sixteenth minute, there was excitement in the arena. Japan quickly showed that they meant business when the Elephants of Africa failed to clear their lines which resulted in the ball trickling to Honda, who let fly an unstoppable shot that beat the Ivorian goalie all systems out. Four minutes later, Ivory Coast, incensed by the goal, were on the attack and, Barry, in goals for the Asians, was called to make a save as Uchida is given acres of space and drifts to the right, back inside and releases a screamer that the goalkeeper could only just put a hand to avoid an equalizer. Talk about being on fire! Another close shave for the Japanese came in the 39th minute when, across from the right, Bony completely miss kicked, resulting in a huge sigh of relief in the opposition. The Elephants were at it again just before the breather when Kalou was given space to go up for a free header, which he non-the-less planted wide off the mark to the chagrin of his teammates and hordes of supporters.
After the break, the waste of chances continued as, three minutes into play, a cross from the right delivered by non other than Kalou saw Bony head wide off the mark with the goal gaping wide open. The jinx was finally broken in the 64th minute when, from a Serge Aurier right cross, Bony rose up and made good his header, placing the ball well beyond Barry. In a feat good enough for the Guinness Book of Records and definitely breaking the FIFA World Cup record of the fastest double strike so far in the World Cup. In addition, this also breaks the record as the only match in which two goals header were scored in a World Cup ever. This is all because, exactly 99 seconds after the first header by Bony, Gervinho nodded in a goal into the near post from another Aurier right cross. The Ivorians could have increased their tally had not Didier Drogba seen his efforts go agonizingly close and yet still too far.
The question that was on everyone’s lips after the game was whether this could be third time lucky for the African Elephants. Judging from the game tonight and the group performance so far, they may be in with a chance. However, only time will tell. They just need to be wary of Colombia though who they meet in their second group match on the 19th of June.