Ivory Coast vs. Japan: Film Focus Previewing World Cup Group C Match

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 14, 2014

FRISCO, TX - JUNE 04: Gervais Kouassi Yao #10 of Ivory Coast celebrates with Didier Drogba #11 after scoring during the International friendly match between Ivory Coast and El Salvador at Toyota Stadium on June 4, 2014 in Frisco, Texas.  (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images

With the FIFA World Cup 2014 firmly underway, we bring you the next in an in-depth series of match previews that centre on tactics, team selections and predicted XIs.

We will close a mammoth Saturday of footballing action with the fourth and final game: Ivory Coast vs. Japan, the ultimate clash in styles and philosophies.


How Ivory Coast Will Line Up

The golden generation has one last stab at an international tournament, and Ivory Coast natives will be praying their nation can make it out of a World Cup group for the first time in their history.

The squad has been loaded with the likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou and Kolo Toure for a decade, yet the Elephants have won a grand total of zero.

Probable Ivory Coast XI. Possible changes: Gradel for Toure.
Probable Ivory Coast XI. Possible changes: Gradel for Toure.B/R TeamStream (@stighefootball)

For most of that crop it's their last major international tournament, and although the "standard" approach hasn't worked too well in the past, expect more of the same as CIV take to the pitch against Japan.

Physical, bruising play from a 4-2-3-1 base, complemented by speedy, tricky wingers and mammoth strikers capable of swallowing defences.

Gervinho and Kalou will look to get in behind, while whoever plays up front—be it Drogba or Wilfried Bony—will be troubling a suspect Japanese defence.


How Japan Will Line Up

Japan never fail to entertain.

They're a slick, confident passing side who work the ball through every third of the pitch, but their inadequacies in the first and final third often means they fail to deliver what they promise.

Possible Japan XI.
Possible Japan XI.B/R TeamStream (@stighefootball)

The defensive line is suspect, but the full-backs are excellent in attack. The midfield is lightweight and tiki-taka-esque, but the lack of a reliable goalscorer means the attacking midfielders must chip in with goals.

That spells good news for Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa, but bad news for Hiroshi Kiyotake. Manager Alberto Zaccheroni will likely field a striker on the right of his 4-2-3-1 to add a goal threat, with Shinji Okazaki or Yoichiro Kakitani filling the role.


3 Tactical Clashes

1. Shut Off the Supply

Ivory Coast need to do something about Japan's metronomic passing displays, which can lull a team to sleep and then strike with a killer-ball.

Disrupting the midfield pivot of Makoto Hasebe and Yasuhito Endo, as Bleacher Report's Ed Dove suggests, is key to the Elephants' success in the middle of the park.

With all that firepower, the last thing they want to do is spend the game marginalised without the ball.


2. Drogba vs. Maya Yoshida

Ivory Coast will be patient in the defensive phase, tracking runs carefully and clogging the central zones with bruising, physical players.

When they get the chance to launch it they will, and Sabri Lamouchi will have instructed his side to hit longer balls as early as possible into either a) the feet/chest of Drogba or b) into the paths of Gervinho and Kalou.

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 30: Didier Drogba #11 of the Ivory Coast looks on during the second half of a friendly match against Bosnia-Herzegovina at Edward Jones Dome on May 30, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. Bosnia-Herzegovina defeated the Ivory Coast  2-1.  (Ph
Jeff Curry/Getty Images

If Toure passes fit, he can carry it out too, and all of these methods will cause Zaccheroni a great headache. 


3. Power vs. Technique

This game is the epitome of style clashes, with Ivory Coasts' raw power and athleticism going up against Japan's neat, tidy passing template.

It's rare to see two styles clash with such contrast, and the game represents one of football's true barometers in terms of what goes for "successful" in 2014.


Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.