Already a legend in African football, Didier Drogba continues to inspire his country’s young footballers. A veteran of three world cups, the 36-year old Drogba brought magic to the game from the time he took to the field. For the better part of Ivory Coast’s match with Japan, however, Drogba sat on the bench watching his younger team-mates as they showed flashes of brilliance but couldn’t play with authority. Drogba was especially impressed with 21-year old Serge Aurier, who put his heart into the game and ran untiringly all over the ground. But Aurier himself was not disappointed and the match ended with Ivory Coast emerging victorious.
The Africans didn’t have a good start as Japan scored an early goal and kept their lead until late in the match. Sitting on the bench, Drogba was all praise for the efforts of the young Aurier. He said that the youngster brought energy and balance to the side. It was a great debut for the Toulouse wing-back, who is certain to continue with the boost that he got from his first ever world cup appearance. The African giants were pushed by the Japanese early on and conceded a goal, when Keisuke Honda struck accurately to put Japan in the lead in the 16th minute. Ivory Coast did their best to equalize but couldn’t succeed. Just as the match stretched to the middle of the second half, Japan still continued to be in the lead. Frustration began mounting in the Ivory Coast camp even as captain Yaya Toure produced some fine shots, all of which sailed over the bar. It was at this point that Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi decided to bring in his trump card Didier Drogba. The great African took to the field in the 62nd minute for the first time in his third world cup.
Drogba’s electric presence was immediately discernible. There was a new spring in the feet of Ivory Coast strikers. And the instantaneous transformation was witnessed by those present in Arena Pernaambuco at Recife on the rainy Saturday night. The team drew instant inspiration from the Galatasaray striker and former Chelsea superstar and Drogba himself didn’t score any goal but the impact of his movements was magical in the way he ran in the Japanese territory. He immediately made deep inroads and created gaps in the otherwise solid-looking Japanese defense. Within just two minutes of Drogba’s arrival, Ivory Coast found the much-awaited equalizer and in another two minutes, they went ahead of Japan. There was not much time left in the match after that and when the final whistle was blown Ivory Coast finished the match with a 2-1 victory.
After Drogba’s entry on the pitch, the inspired Serge Aurier flew with the ball on the right flank and sent a curling cross to Wilfried Bony, who found himself in a perfect position to head the ball in. The 64th minute goal brought Ivory Coast level with Japan. Two minutes later, Aurier repeated his feat yet again and this time found Gervinho for the header into the goal. Both goals were scored in the copybook fashion that left the Japanese goalkeeper stranded. Drogba was seen smiling from ear to ear and later he talked about the young Aurier’s dream debut and the new generation taking over the future of Ivory Coast football. Most certainly, it is the last world cup for Drogba but boys like Aurier have long shining road ahead of them.