The centre half played the full 90 minutes in Recife, as the Elephants came from a goal down to win the Group C battle.
Morgan Schneiderlin, the club's only other representative, will hope for better when France line-up against Honduras in Group E tonight.
Japan's star player Keisuke Honda had put them ahead with an impressive strike after 16 minutes.
Having been afforded far too much time just inside the penalty area, the AC Milan midfielder shifted the ball from his right to left foot before drilling a shot inside a stationary Boubacar Barry's right-hand post.
Atsuto Uchida should have made it 2-0 after cutting in from the right, but opted to go for goal and shot straight at the keeper with teammates well placed in the middle.
Ivory Coast, with Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure captaining the side but plainly not at his best after recovering from a hamstring injury, stepped up the pressure but failed to test goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, with Salomon Kalou heading over from six yards just before the break.
Either side of Wilfried Bony making a mess of two headers early in the second half, Toure appeared to be brought down by Yoshida but no penalty was awarded.
With frustration growing, former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, who had been left out of the starting line-up, was introduced and, within six minutes, his side were ahead.
First, Bony equalised with a glancing header in the 65th minute, before ex-Arsenal forward Gervinho beat Kawashima all too easily at his near post just 98 seconds later to stun the Japanese.