Ivory Coast (1-0-0) vs. Colombia (1-0-0), Noon (ET)
06/19/2014 9:15 AM
06/19/2014 9:20 AM
Brasilia, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Two teams coming off opening-game victories will be looking to take control of Group C when Colombia and Ivory Coast come together Thursday at Estadio Nacional.
The Colombians currently sit atop the group following a 3-0 rout of Greece on Saturday. Goals by Pablo Armero, Teo Gutierrez and James Rodriguez solidified the confident victory.
"This is a fantastic result for the whole of Colombia because there was a lot of emotion among the fans today," Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman said. "Nothing's decided yet, but we went about our task in the right way today."
Ivory Coast found itself down quickly against Japan in its opener, surrendering a goal in the 16th minute. The Elephants rallied in the second half, however, with an equalizer from Wilfried Bony in the 64th minute and, just two minutes later, the eventual winner from Gervinho.
"We didn't start the game very well by conceding through a lapse in concentration," said Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi. "After that, we got into a lot of good positions. For us it was really important to start well this tournament. To have a player like Didier Drogba in your squad, as a starter or a sub, changes a game. The players are very happy with the victory, but we are not yet qualified."
Perhaps the favorite in a relatively weak group, Colombia showed a great deal of focus and poise in its clean sheet win, even without star striker Radamel Falcao, who is sidelined for the tournament with a torn ACL.
Gutierrez, who pounced on a chance following a corner in the 60th minute and doubled his team's advantage, figures to be a reliable replacement for Falcao. Adding a third tally in stoppage time, Rodriguez is a versatile supporting midfielder. Juan Cuadrado, who helped set up two of the three goals in the game, is a pacey, skillful winger.
Ivory Coast brings a strong offensive group to Brazil, with the likes of veterans such as Yaya Toure, Salomon Kalou and Drogba. In the country's third World Cup appearance, this is perhaps their best chance to compete in the knockout round for the first time, due in large part to their superior athletic talent.
With both teams, defense is certainly somewhat of a question mark, so this contest has the potential to be wide open, with plenty of goals, which seems to be the theme of the tournament so far.
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