RECIFE, Brazil, June 14 (Xinhua) -- AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda's goal registered Japan a 1-0 lead over Cote d'Ivoire after the first half of Group C first round match in the 2014 Brazil World Cup here on Staturday in Arena Pernambuco.
Cote d'Ivoire's superstar Didier Drogba was left on the bench as Yaya Toure was up in the front to lead their attack.
In the 16th minute, Honda received the ball from a corner in the Cote d'Ivoire area, opened his body and smashed the ball into the top corner with his left foot. The fantastic strike put this match back into life as both sides found little chaneces in the beginning 15 minutes.
Blue Samurai continued the momentum as Honda hit the target again on 21 minutes. One minute later, Uchida found space on the Japanese right and neatly turned on to his left foot past Serey. He striked a shot towards goal, which was saved by goalkeeper Barry.
The Ivorians fought back afterwards. In 27th minute, Lille midfielder Kalou played a nice one-two before blazing his shot over the bar from distance. Egiht minutes later, Boka smashed a shot from distance, but Japanese goalkeeper Kawishima made a good save. Bony followed up and hit the post, but is flagged offside. The 1-0 scoreline didn't change during the first half.
In the previous two World Cups, Cote d'Ivoire have been drawn into two hard groups and were eliminated at the group stages after finishing third each time. With the golden generation of Yaya and Kolo Toure, Drogba and Didier Zokora all over 30, this could be their final appearance at the summer showpiece as they tried to reach the knock-out stage for the first time.
This is Japan's 5th straight World Cup. After a heartbreaking penalty kick loss at the last World Cup to Paraguay, Japan go into Brazil looking to avenge it and they are looking for another Round of 16 birth at least.