Côte d'Ivoire captain Didier Drogba stressed the need to put the team ahead of his personal ambitions after helping the African nation kick off their 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ campaign with victory over Japan. Drogba did not start but came on in the second half and helped provide the inspiration for a 2-1 come-from-behind win in Recife.
"I was disappointed (not to start)," the 36-year-old Drogba said to French newspaper L'Equipe. "But I have to show my respect to those that started. When I went in, I just wanted to help the team to win the match and I did not need this disappointment in order to be motivated. I don't know how long I played but I knew it was important to give something extra to the team."
Japan had taken a first-half lead against the run of play through a goal from Keisuke Honda, but within four minutes of Drogba's introduction in the 62nd minute the Côte d'Ivoire had turned the match on its head to go 2-1 ahead. Wilfried Bony drew the teams level in the 64th minute and then his fellow forward Gervinho netted what would prove to be the match-winner just moments later. "Japan weren't very dangerous but we trailed and had to come from behind to win," Drogba said.
We've prepared for many weeks for this game and it was important to start the competition on the right foot.
Drogba, playing in his third World Cup, is hoping that Les Elephants can reach the knock-out round of the competition for the first time in the country's history. The Côte d'Ivoire take on Colombia on Thursday at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia. Colombia won their Group C game against Greece to go level on three points with Drogba's team.
"It is a beautiful victory and we are happy with the result," the Galatasaray forward said. "We've prepared for many weeks for this game and it was important to start the competition on the right foot. This result will be very important especially if we play a good game against Colombia."
Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni was frustrated by the outcome but emphasised the need to look forward. The Blue Samurai take on Greece on Thursday at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal. "We gave Côte d'Ivoire players too much space and didn't play well defensively or offensively," the Italian said. "We have two games left and now we have to improve our morale.
"We have to play better than we did tonight, and if we can do that then we know we're capable of producing good results. The past is in the past, what's important is what's coming next. Normally we know what we have to do, and when we accomplish that our results are fantastic. Against the Ivory Coast, we didn't just play an excellent opponent, but we didn't play to our standards."