The game that ends match day three of the 2014 World Cup may be the most unpredictable. When the Ivory Coast meets Japan, it will be a battle of strength versus pace. Japan will try to exploit an aging team while Ivory Coast will try to wear down the Japan back four. Neither nation has an extensive history in the World Cup, but three points for either team will give them one foot in the round of 16. Victory is more likely for Ivory Coast if Yaya Touré is fit.
The Ivory Coast has many household names, but most of them are old in the soccer world. Didier Drogba is 36. Didier Zakora is 33. Touré is 31. Touré may be the key to the success of the Ivory Coast, but is a game time decision. He continues his race against time by battling a hamstring injury. The Elephants will not know if Touré can go until the last minute. His health could determine the outcome.
Japan have been to every World Cup since 1998, but they have kept only one clean sheet in their last nine matches. Maya Yoshida will be asked to spy on Drogba and not give him an inch of space for that wicked shot. With Drogba occupying the center backs, Touré could have acres of space in behind. However, playing an African side may be a bit of luck for Japan as two of their previous four wins in the World Cup have come against African nations.
Japan’s attack will be in the hands of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki. Meanwhile, Ivory Coast averages 1.5 goals per game in the World Cup and they will have Gervinho to fall back on and hopefully team up with Touré if Drogba is ineffective. The Ivory Coast were in brutal groups in the last two World Cups. Japan is looking to get to the round of 16 for the third time in the last four competitions. All of this means that this matchup could be the most unpredictable of the day.
Who will win out in the battle of strength versus speed? It is hard to tell and should come down to a one goal match. In a group that is up for grabs, this match takes on added significance. Touré is the keystone for Ivory Coast in this match and is needed for an Elephants victory.