Japan led 1-0 at half-time at the Itaipava Pernambuco thanks to Keisuke Honda but Cote d’Ivoire claimed victory with two goals in as many minutes just after the hour-mark.
Fullback Serge Aurier created both goals with impressive crosses from the right with Wilfried Bony and Gervinho taking advantage, although the latter benefited from poor goalkeeping from Japan’s Eiji Kawashima.
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The game was the first time Cote d’Ivoire had won its opening fixture at a FIFA World Cup as the African nation look to claim a maiden berth in the knockout stages in its third consecutive appearance at the global tournament.
The shock in the two starting line-ups was the absence of captain Didier Drogba from Cote d’Ivoire’s XI after he failed to recover from a thigh strain suffered at training.
Bony took Drogba’s spot up front while coach Sabri Lamouchi made two other changes to the XI that began Cote d’Ivoire’s 2-1 win over El Salvador with Kolo Toure – who had struggled with malaria before the tournament – and Max Gradel being replaced by Didier Zokora and Yaya Toure.
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni recalled Makoto Hasebe after the captain recovered from a knee injury to make just his third appearance for club or country this year.
Hasebe started as one of two holding midfielders alongside Hotaru Yamaguchi, while Yuya Osako got the nod in Japan’s most troublesome position – centre-forward.
Of the four strikers in Zaccheroni’s squad, Osako was the only one yet to have scored for Japan in 2014 but started at the point of the attack ahead of Shinji Okazaki, Yoshito Okubo and Yoichiro Kakitani.
Okazaki started on the right wing while Okubo and Kakitani were named on the bench.
Cote d’Ivoire had 59.7 per cent possession in the first half with the Africans starting stronger, as Bony received the ball in the box before his shot was deflected past the post in the sixth minute.
But Japan edged its way into the game and in the 16th minute it hit the front.
Yuto Nagatomo collected a throw-in and fed Honda on the edge of the box, and the Milan man slipped away from Toure and fired a thunderous strike into the top corner.
Atsuto Uchida could have made it 2-0 five minutes later but the fullback’s powerful drive was parried by Boubacar Barry, before the Cote d’Ivoire goalkeeper was almost chipped by Honda.
While Cote d’Ivoire had more of the ball, it generally struggled to break down Japan’s well-organised defence and its best opportunities came on the counter-attack.
After Toure and Arthur Boka just missed the target with free-kicks, Gervinho got free on the break in the 34th minute only for a scrambling Maya Yoshida to block his shot with a sliding challenge.
Honda slalomed through the opposition defence soon after only to watch his deflected shot loop over the bar, while Cote d’Ivoire had a couple of half chances to Salomon Kalou and Boka but was unable to beat Kawashima.
After a frantic first half, the second started slightly slower but in the 57th minute Cote d’Ivoire had a penalty claim ignored after Toure’s drive into the box ended with a stumble after Yoshida’s sliding challenge.
Drogba was brought on in the 62nd minute for Serey Die and almost created a goal immediately with a back-heel to Gervinho before Japan’s defence scrambled the ball clear.
But the Cote d’Ivoire fans did not need to wait long for an equaliser with Bony getting between Yoshida and Masato Morishige to nod Aurier’s fine cross past Kawashima in the 64th minute.
A cross from Aurier set up a second goal soon after but Kawashima would have been unhappy with his effort, failing to stop Gervinho’s header despite getting two hands to the ball at the near post.
Kawashima did better in the 82nd minute, parrying Drogba’s free kick away while the Galatasaray striker had a shot deflected past the post soon after.
But it mattered little as Cote d’Ivoire moved into second in Group C behind Colombia ahead of their clash on Friday while Japan faces Greece on the same day.
If Gold Coast want to play finals this year, they’re going to have to do it the hard way.
Four weeks ago, the Suns were considered an outside chance to snare a top-four berth after winning seven of their opening nine games of the AFL season.
But three losses on the trot have left them with an uphill battle to even make the top eight, with Saturday’s three-point defeat to West Coast proving particularly heartbreaking.
The Suns booted six unanswered goals in the final quarter to turn a 39-point deficit into a one-point lead.
But a late goal from Eagles swingman Jeremy McGovern sealed the 15.13 (103) to 15.10 (100) result.
Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna was impressed by his team’s final-quarter display, but he was critical of what they produced during the first three terms.
And with season-defining games against Geelong (home), Hawthorn (Aurora Stadium) and Collingwood (home) to come over the next three weeks, McKenna knows his team will pay the price if they don’t start producing four-quarter efforts.
“Well, I would look at that last quarter and say we’re a good chance to beat the next three sides if we play like that,” McKenna said.
“But we have to play longer than 30 minutes.
“Physically the group has matured. Technically we’ve got some hurdles to get over with our ball use and composure.
“We’re 7-5 now. The season’s just over halfway done. It’s a big year still ahead of us. We’re looking forward to those three challenges coming up.”
Gold Coast skipper Gary Ablett was restricted to just four possessions in the opening term against West Coast, but finished the match with 33 disposals and 11 clearances to almost get his side over the line.
The little maestro had the chance to win the game in the dying moments, but his checkside kick from a near-impossible angle hit the post.
The 55-test veteran hurt his ankle playing for the Queensland Reds in round 11 of the Super Rugby tournament and had carried the injury into training for the Wallabies’ three-test series against France, the Australian Rugby Union said in a media release on Sunday.
“Scans late last week confirmed a pre-existing injury to the upper part of his ankle had not healed sufficiently and as a result medical staff from both the … Wallabies and Queensland Reds agreed that surgery would be the best course of action,” the ARU said.
Genia may be sidelined for up to eight weeks, which would leave him well short of match fitness for the Wallabies’ Rugby Championship opener against New Zealand on Aug. 16.
Though rarely firing for the Reds this season, the 26-year-old’s omission from the first two tests raised eyebrows, with his injury kept under wraps.
“Will has demonstrated enormous mental fortitude to play through the injury although it has reached a point where it’s important he gets it surgically repaired so that he can get back to 100 percent fitness,” Australia coach Ewen McKenzie said in the ARU statement.
“We’ve seen before how committed Will is when undergoing rehab and I would expect him to work hard to be available for selection when we begin our … Rugby Championship campaign.”
McKenzie has picked ACT Brumbies’ Nic White as his starting scrumhalf against Les Bleus, with New South Wales Waratahs’ Nick Phipps on the bench.
Australia edged France 6-0 in a dour contest in Melbourne on Saturday to seal the series 2-0 ahead of the final match in Sydney this week, but White had a poor game at Docklands stadium, missing three out of four penalty kicks and struggling to spark a haphazard Wallabies’ attack.
Genia’s withdrawal has opened the door for former Wallabies scrumhalf Luke Burgess to join the squad and add to his 37 caps.
The 30-year-old Burgess played his last test at the 2011 World Cup, but was in solid form for the Melbourne Rebels coming in to the June internationals.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
Italy won the Group D clash 2-1 thanks to a 50th-minute winner from Mario Balotelli after England were unable to turn their second-half dominance into an equalizer.
“It’s always difficult when you lose a game to take the positives. Even when it was 2-1, I thought we’d get back into it and go on to win it because it was quite a dominant second-half performance,” Hodgson told reporters.
“The only positive I can take is that it was undoubtedly the best I’ve seen the team play during my time with them,” said Hodgson who took over as England manager two years ago.
Costa Rica beat Uruguay 3-1 in the group’s opening game and Hodgson believes his team still have every chance to progress to the last 16.
“Of course we can still qualify. We’re a bit downhearted at the moment, a bit sad that the game didn’t go our way – we were hoping for a perfect start but we don’t live in a perfect world,” he said.
“I’ve got great confidence that we can do well enough in the next two games to qualify and I’m sure the players will get that when they get over this disappointment.”
Hodgson was pleased with the way his team restricted Italy’s attack but frustrated at his players’ inability to deliver precise final passes.
“It’s a bit tough to accept that we lost the game, especially considering there were so few shots on our goal in the second half,” he said.
“(Goalkeeper) Joe Hart had a pretty quiet evening really and yet we find ourselves having lost. We know we played against a good team and to take them so close gives us great confidence that we can do well against Uruguay and Costa Rica and still progress in the tournament.
“Our final ball was a bit disappointing today – we’re better than that. I thought especially towards the end when we were desperate for that goal I thought there were several situations where we were in good crossing or shooting positions and we didn’t take advantage of it and that’s something we need to work on.
“But we are a young team and this is the first World Cup for almost two thirds of the team so I think this is something we will improve upon going forward,” he said.
Hodgson singled out Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck for praise for their lively contributions to England’s attacks.
“It’s very good to know that we have so many players who will help us become a much better team going forward,” he said.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)
Be very afraid – the real Nic Naitanui is back.
The star ruckman produced a match-winning display on Saturday to lift the Eagles to a three-point win over Gold Coast in Perth.
Naitanui has been battered by critics this year after making a slow return to form following 18 months of groin issues.
But if the past four weeks are anything to go by, Naitanui will be a major force in the second half of the year.
The 2012 All-Australian tallied 22 possessions, 34 hit-outs and six clearances against the Suns, with Gold Coast coach Guy McKenna conceding he could do little to stop Naitanui’s dominance at the centre bounces.
Even Naitanui’s non possessions were critical.
Whether he was providing deft knock-ons or merely busting packs, Naitanui caused havoc everywhere.
And it was his effort to compete for a high ball in the goalsquare while running against the flight that set up Jeremy McGovern for the match-winner.
Naitanui copped a massive whack to the face for his efforts, but it proved to be the defining moment in the 15.13 (103) to 15.10 (100) win.
“Unfortunately you don’t get stats for those little knock-ons and efforts that just disrupt the play,” West Coast coach Adam Simpson said.
“Because he’s so big and strong and powerful, he’d have to have 10 or 15 a game.
“I just think we’re seeing glimpses of his best, and for a longer period.
“For a guy who gets criticised a lot for perhaps not understanding how to get the ball, I think every week I’ve seen improvement.”
The Eagles are unlikely to make the finals despite improving their record to 5-7.
Forward Josh Kennedy (seven goals) and Naitanui were brilliant against the Suns, while Sharrod Wellingham made a welcome return to form after earning a late reprieve.
But the Eagles have several worrying problems on the injury front heading into Sunday’s clash with St Kilda at Etihad Stadium.
Midfielder Elliot Yeo could miss between one to four weeks with a broken hand, while Scott Selwood is no certainty to play again this year as the club assesses his worrying ankle injury.
Midfielder Luke Shuey (rolled ankle) is expected to return against the Saints, while Simpson faces a tough decision on whether to recall Dean Cox after resting the champion ruckman against Gold Coast.
Scott Lycett performed admirably in Cox’s absence.
And with Cox still undecided on his future, the Eagles may opt to give Lycett an extended run in the team if he can keep producing the goods.
Extended coverage: Iraq crisis
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she hasn’t envisaged Australia sending troops to Iraq to quell growing violence in the country.
Instead, she says the government is ready to help deal with the humanitarian crisis.
Insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have taken a swathe of mostly Sunni Arab territory in northern Iraq since launching an offensive last week.
US President Barack Obama has said Washington was considering options over Iraq but would not be sending troops – a position backed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
On Saturday US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the aircraft carrier the USS George HW Bush, to sail into the Persian Gulf as President Barack Obama considers possible military options for Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in the Houston on Saturday, Mr Abbott said he would wait to see how the US responds to the situation in Iraq before developing an Australian response.
“The important thing at the moment is to let the Americans work their way forward,” he said.
Ms Bishop, who described events in Iraq as “deeply disturbing”, said the US would take the lead when it came to any military action.
“I didn’t envisage a circumstance where we would be sending in troops,” she told the Ten Network.
“But we certainly stand ready to support the humanitarian crisis should a request be made.”
Greens leader Christine Milne said following the US into Iraq “is not going to fix it”.
“We do not want to follow the United States blindly as John Howard did (in 2003,” Senator Milne told ABC Television.
“Clearly it didn’t work last time in Iraq and it won’t work this time,” Senator Milne told ABC Television.
The fans packed the pub in central Sydney to cheer on the English team as it went against the Italian side in their World Cup opening game.
Many watchers were took a punt after the first half.
“I reckon we’re going to be all right. Second half we’ll blitz them,” one fan told SBS.
God Save the Queen. English #worldcup supporters in strong form in Sydney CBD a few minutes to kick off @SBSNews pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/KL4U4UXmY5
— Helen Isbister (@HelenIsbister) June 14, 2014
But the final result did not favour the British.
Some English supporters in central Sydney finding it hard to watch as Italy leads 2-1#worldcup @SBSNews pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/xBQlZmAd1k
— Helen Isbister (@HelenIsbister) June 14, 2014
“Today we’re still in the challenge it doesn’t really matter. Next few games we’ll win the Group,” another fan said.
“We’re English, we got heart, we challenge I tell ya. That’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to challenge it.”
And the defeat did not dampen celebrations among the English supporters.
Statistician Nate Silver, who correctly predicted the winner in all 50 states at the last US presidential election, says England still has a chance of advancing from Group D.
Sitting behind Costa Rica (66 per cent) and Italy (74 per cent), he calculates England is in with a 35 per cent chance.