Ivory Coast v Japan – Honda To Drive Over Elephants
Ivory Coast v Japan
Ivory Coast take on Japan in the wee hours of Sunday morning in an opener that will be pivotal in deciding how this particular group goes. I try and find some value bets in this preview.
Africa’s perennial underachievers come into this World Cup with expectations at a much more realistic and subdued level. Les Elephants were dumped out of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations at the quarter-finals stage by Nigeria last year and couldn’t get past the group stages at the 2010 World Cup- their only win coming against North Korea.
They looked to be in good nick throughout CAF qualification and progressed to this summer’s tournament with some ease. However, preparations have been less than impressive with a 2-1 defeat to Bosnia & Herzegovina followed up by a narrow 2-1 victory over El Salvador.
Manager Sabri Lamouchi does at least have some in-form players to call upon. Yaya Toure in particular was in irrepressible form throughout the recent Premier League title-winning campaign with Manchester City.
Japan came through their qualification in impressive fashion and were in fact the first team to confirm their place – after the hosts – in Brazil this summer. They won five and lost just one of their eight qualifiers to finish a comfortable four points ahead of Australia and arrive here with arguably their strongest ever side.
Wins in warm-up friendlies against Cyprus, Costa Rica and Zambia ahead of this game don’t tell us too much but at least mean that they can come into the World Cup on a positive footing.
Yaya Toure holds the key to Ivory Coast’s success at this summer’s World Cup. If the Manchester City midfielder can reproduce his domestic form on the international stage then who knows how far this team can go. All-time top scorer Didier Drogba’s goals will obviously also be important.
Likewise, the hopes of Japan rest upon the shoulders of Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda. Honda top scored in qualification with five goals, while Kagawa, despite his lack of games at Manchester United last season, is capable of unlocking the meanest of defences.
Head to Head
This will be the fourth meeting between these two nations, with the previous three coming in friendly matches. Japan won the first two but Ivory Coast won the most recent back in 2010, with Kolo Toure getting on the scoresheet.
Ivory Coast are made 8/5 favourites here, but unfairly so in my opinion. The value in the Match Odds market is a really handy Japanese side – who beat Belgium in a friendly back in November of last year – at odds of 2/1 for the win.
Keisuke Honda is also undervalued in the goalscorer markets and can be backed at odds of 15/2 to score the first goal of the game and a big 2/1 to net anytime.