By Philip O'Connor
RECIFE, Brazil, June 15 (Reuters) - Didier Drogba again proved the talisman for the Ivory Coast's come-from-behind victory over Japan in their opening World Cup game, coach Sabri Lamouchi said after the 2-1 triumph in Group C on Saturday.
Having left Drogba on the bench, Lamouchi said his impact after coming on, almost immediately engineering a winning turnaround as the Africans scored twice in a three-minute burst, was typical of the influence of the 36-year-old striker.
"Having a player like Drogba in the team, either starting or as a replacement, always has an effect on the team," he told reporters, adding he had only told the captain he would be on the bench when they arrived at the stadium.
"Of course Drogba was disappointed to be on the bench but if you saw the joy when he finished the match - we need him and we will need everyone before the end of this tournament.
"When Drogba came on everything changed. Part of leaving him on the bench was to do with strategy, part of it was his fitness. The last time he played 90 minutes was a few months ago in Turkey and he's had an injury since then.
"He has improved an awful lot in the last few weeks. He has made a lot of sacrifices to be at the World Cup.
"We did not start very well in the game, conceding the first goal because of a careless mistake," added Lamouchi, a former French international with only two years coaching experience.
"But after that we made many chances. For us it was really important to get into the competition.
"The players are very happy with the victory, but we are not yet qualified," added Lamouchi, whose side next meet Colombia in Brasilia on Thursday.
Earlier on Saturday, Colombia secured an emphatic 3-0 win over Greece in the opening group match. (Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond)