Football

Fit Toure to face Japan

GROUP C

IVORY COAST v JAPAN

(Tomorrow, 9am, SingTel mio TV Ch 141 & StarHub TV Ch 223)

Ivory Coast's powerhouse midfielder Yaya Toure will be fit to start their World Cup campaign against Japan, coach Sabri Lamouchi said this morning (Singapore time).

The three-time African Player of the Year picked up a hamstring injury in April playing for club side Manchester City as they went on to win the English Premier League title.

He joined up late with the Ivory Coast squad after undergoing treatment in Qatar, and missed the two warm-up matches in the United States, where the Africans lost 2-1 to Bosnia but beat El Salvador by the same score.

He is likely to start in the heart of midfield, however, as Ivory Coast face Japan in a Group C match at the Pernambuco Arena in the northern city of Recife tomorrow morning.

READY

"I can tell you that all my players are physically ready to play tomorrow," Lamouchi told a news conference.

"I can't say that all my players will be at 100 per cent.

"We have had a number of injuries and health problems but everybody will be available tomorrow."

Japan's technicians must try to outfox a powerful Ivory Coast as the Asian and African powerhouses meet in a clash of styles tomorrow morning.

The Blue Samurai have established themselves as the leading force on the Asian continent, largely thanks to the technical quality of their nimble midfield, while the Ivorians rely on the power and driving runs of Toure and exciting young fullback Serge Aurier.

Whether it is Japan's guile or the Elephants' physical force, whoever comes out on top in the Pernambuco Arena will put themselves in a fine position to qualify for the last 16.

OPEN

The group, which also contains Greece and a Colombian side deprived of the injured Radamel Falcao, could be one of the most open of this World Cup, but Lamouchi is hopeful his side can progress.

"Our ambition is to go beyond the first phase as it is something the Ivory Coast have never managed before," said the Frenchman, who is the youngest coach at the Finals at the age of 42.

The Elephants' Golden Generation, led by veteran striker Didier Drogba, bowed out at the group stage in both the last two World Cups, and Lamouchi knows the importance of getting a positive result against Japan.

"In the last two years, I have brought my ideas, my methods. I can assure you we have worked very well," he added.

"We have brought in younger players because we also need to prepare ourselves for the future.

"It is true that we have great players, international-class players like Drogba, Yaya Toure and Gervinho, but this generation has still not won anything and we need to find out why that is so."

The Asian champions will look to the creative spark of Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda of AC Milan, but Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni knows his defence could struggle against the quality of Drogba and Swansea City's Wilfried Bony.

But he is hopeful that his team will be mentally ready for their first truly-competitive game since securing World Cup qualification a year ago.

"We have a squad with an average age of about 27. There is a good balance and I am sure we will start this game with the right approach," said the 61-year-old. - Wire Services.


I can tell you that all my players are physically ready to play tomorrow. (But) I can’t say that all my players will be at 100 per cent.

— Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi

World Cup