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Tropical storm Drogba arrives to batter Japan

Logotipo de AS AS 15/06/2014 Aritz Gabilondo

A gentle rain fell on Recife and Japan were strolling, umbrellas up and wellies on, with no real fear of getting wet, when suddenly the hurricane struck. Tropical storm Drogba. The forward was subbed on in the 61st minute and his sheer force of nature changed the entire match.

Apart from hiding from the unquenchable Drogba, Japan had a more than dignified game. Which only makes what happened even more incredible. In the land of the rising sun they are brewing a tasty kind of football. They like to keep the ball and have players who are creative enough to let their talent blossom. Because talent they have, in spades. Okazaki, Kagawa and Honda are the best representatives of that. Their best moves always had one of them involved, and Ivory Coast struggled to cope with them. That said when the Ivorians turned the ball over and launched their direct attacks the Japanese defence was clearly trembling.

But the real tremors in Recife were when Ivory Coast were defending set pieces. It’s unbelievable that players with their imposing physique are so tame in such situations. In the first dangerous corner, Okazaki was close to scoring, in the second similar situation, a throw-in at the corner flag this time, Nagatomo linked up with Osaka, then with Honda, who finished with an imperious left foot strike. Meanwhile the Ivorians were trying to break the laws of physics and defend without moving. Impossible.

The big man changed it all around © Proporcionado por AS The big man changed it all around

Drogba’s aggrieved face on the bench said it all. Not even the runs from the mighty Yayá Touré could change the outlook. Nor a couple of freekicks from the City man. Japan were making hay when they had the ball and though they looked nervous without it, that only happened when they gave the ball away themselves.

And so on, until Lamouchi handed the keys to the game to Drogba. The African star came onto the pitch with the swagger of one who knows they can change history. And he did. His team came to life, as Drogba’s presence ensured the attacks came from the wings into the centre, a blessing for the Ivorians, who in Aurier have one of the best right backs in the business. Two balls from him, one to Bony and one to Gervinho undid a Japanese side who appeared to have had the match controlled.

The truth is there wasn’t much more to it in objective terms than this, two buckets of cold water chucked over keeper Kawashima, because afterwards the game appeared to go back to how it had been. However Drogba’s influence over his rivals can’t be ignored. His arrival changed the attitude of the Japanese central defenders, who had every reason to be frightened. He is still an almighty player. Few people can shake up a World Cup game singlehandedly as he did here. Japan were in control and lost. Or, more simply: Japan don’t have Drogba.

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