With Côte d’Ivoire at the top of Group B at the start of day two and Japan just a point behind, the stage was set for a heated encounter in the early afternoon sun. Japan were the aggressors early on, as Teruki Tabata’s direct-kick narrowly missed the far post and Hirofumi Oda’s close range shot was turned away by goalkeeper Hamed Coulibaly. Rikarudo Higa then struck woodwork before another shot blazed just over the bar, as flag-waving Japanese supporters howled their approval.
And so it was that Côte d’Ivoire’s opening goal came against the run of play, with a composed Ludovic Ehounou setting up Frederic Aka in space. Japan struck back immediately, as their shot from the ensuing kick-off found its way into the corner of the net, despite close attention from defenders. Aka turned provider midway through the second period, freeing Bassiriki Ouattara for the go-ahead goal.
Masahito Toma picked his spot to draw his side level as the final period got underway and Japan added another late on to claim the top spot in Group B. Japan take on El Salvador tomorrow as the group stage draws to a close, while Côte d’Ivoire will have their work cut out for them as they take on Spain.