Ivory Coast v Japan Preview

Group C | Sunday 15 June | Arena Pernambuco, Pernambuco | 03:00




Ivory Coast and Japan clash in Group C both knowing how important this game is as progressing to the knockout stages looks to go down to the wire between them and Greece, with South American’s Colombia tipped as favourites to top the group.

To Win (90mins)
Ivory Coast 31/20 
Draw 2/1 
Japan 18/10

IVORY COAST

Ivory Coast made it through the long arduous process of qualifying for the World Cup as an African team, breezing their way through Group C without losing a game before comfortably beating Senegal 4-2 on aggregate in the final round of qualifying.

The Elephants will do battle against the first team to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Japan.

International football has been crying out for an African team to excel at a World Cup, but not since Cameroon’s heroics in 1990 have a side from the continent looked like making it to the final stages of the global tournament.

However, 2014’s best hope of bucking the trend are Ivory Coast, who have an enviable plethora of attacking talent and seemingly the ability to be a real threat in Brazil.

The Ivorians will line up in an attacking formation with plenty of players on the pitch capable of doing something spectacular in the final third.

Sabri Lamouchi’s side will adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation that can alternate between 4-3-3 on the front foot and 4-5-1 when not in possession.

Liverpool’s Kolo Toure has a considerable role to play in steering the ship from centre-back and will be partnered by Didier Zokora, who has played most of his club football in midfield but operates at the back for his nation.

In midfield Cheick Tiote will look to break-up opposition play and get the ball to the side’s more creative players and is likely to be partnered by fellow battler Geoffroy Serey Die.

Yaya Toure plays a key role in the side as one of the world’s best midfielders and will have licence to go between a central midfield and number ten role.

Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba captains the side from centre forward and is likely to be supported from the flanks by versatile attackers such as Gervinho and Salomon Kalou. 

JAPAN

Japan's Samurai Blue enter the 2014 World Cup in good spirits. They are the best Asia has to offer and boast the best selection of players they have ever had at their disposal.

Japan were the first team other than hosts Brazil to secure their attendance at the finals, comfortably topping their AFC fourth-round qualifying group that also contained Australia, Jordan, Oman and Iraq.

Experienced Italian manager Alberto Zaccheroni took command of the Samurai Blue following the 2010 World Cup and has already enjoyed great success in the role, winning the 2011 Asian Cup and 2013 EAFF East Asian Cup.

Japan have never gone beyond the last 16 in their four previous World Cup appearances but Zaccheroni has the tactical know-how and the creative talents to make that happen in Brazil.

He has chopped and changed from the 3-4-3 formation that brought him the Serie A title with AC Milan to a 4-2-3-1 set-up in qualifying which gave Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Inter Milan fullback Yuto Nagatomo room to attack.

That might have to be changed again though, to offer greater protection to a porous defence, but if anyone can fix a defaulting defensive line it is the wily Italian.

Now at AC Milan, Honda may have failed to set Serie A alight this past six months, but he comes alive when featuring at the heart of the Samurai Blue.

Honda links play wonderfully as the side's number 10, combining brilliantly with Kagawa on the left and namesake Shinji Okazaki on the right.

The trio play with pace and innovation, attempting to unlock sides with the speed of their passing moves.

A weak central defence is likely to be their undoing when they face an attacking side such as Ivory Coast, while none of the strikers have staked a strong enough claim for the starting berth.

Betting Prediction: IVORY COAST 31/20
Ivory Coast are Africa’s only realistic hope of World Cup glory. They are slight favourites at 31/20 while their opponents are valued at 18/10. This fixture could be a tight affair, but with the stars at Ivory Coast’s disposal, they should nip the win.  

Written by Chadley Nagel for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now! 

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