Africa Cup of Nations Semi-Final preview: Ivory Coast vs DR Congo

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Africa Cup of Nations

  • Venue: Estadio de Bata
  • Date: Wednesday, 4 February
  • Kick-off: 19:00 GMT

TEAM NEWS

Ivory Coast midfielder Cheik Tiote may feature after recovering from an ankle injury that has kept him out of the last two matches.

Coach Herve Renard said: “Tiote has started light training. It will be difficult for him to start the game, but he is in the squad.”

DR Congo coach Florent Ibenge said he will not risk playing captain Youssouf Mulumbu, who he says is “70% fit”.

Defender Gabriel Zakuani is out after spraining his ankle against Congo.

MATCH PREVIEW

Ivory Coast are aiming to reach their second final in three years and ease the pain of losing on penalties to Zambia in 2012.

Renard was in charge of Chipolopolo that day but he says he has not spoken to his Elephants squad about his victory over them.

The Frenchman says “I am only interested in winning” with Ivory Coast and believes the team has the team has the “perfect” blend of experience and youth to finally secure a second title.

However, after watching DR Congo come back from two goals down to beat Congo 4-2 in their quarter-final, he is not underestimating the Leopards.

“It’s a very dangerous team and I think their spirit is very strong,” he said.

Ivory Coast's Yaya Toure battles with DR Congo's Jean Kasusula

DR Congo shocked Ivory Coast in Adbidjan in October

And Max Gradel remembers the sides’ last meeting in the qualifiers in October when DR Congo won 4-3 – although the striker believes the Elephants will use that defeat as extra motivation.

“It is going to be a good game. DR Congo defeated us in Abidjan during the qualifiers, but this time it will be different. We are going to prepare well to get through,” he said.

“It’s together that we are going to go all the way. We are going to work to finish the job.”

DR Congo coach Ibenge expects Ivory Coast “will now want to avenge that loss”.

“We hurt their pride when we beat them at home, the big Ivory Coast. They had not lost at home during the generation of Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure,” he said.

“But we are also armed with the motivation to reach the final. That is our target.”

Ibenge, who was appointed last August and combines the role with being boss of AS Vita Club in Kinshasa, is the only African coach left in the tournament.

He admits that DR Congo’s progress is ahead of schedule but believes winning the title is now a possibility – provided they can put the euphoria of the quarter-final win over Congo behind them.

“It will be extraordinary to be champions here. It will be a big achievement,” said the 52-year-old.

“It will prove we are winners and it will make our people, who are going through a difficult time, happy again.

“This tournament was not our main target. We were aiming at the 2017 competition, but now we are still here. It’s a bonus for us and with this bonus we are taking it a step at a time.

“That’s what I keep telling my players – live for today, not the next day, and every time try and be better and don’t have any regrets.

“This is how we started this tournament and we will continue with this philosophy.”

MATCH FACTS

  • DR Congo have reached the final four of an Afcon tournament for the first time since 1998, in which they finished third. They last made the final in 1974, winning the competition (as Zaire)
  • Ivory Coast have made the semi-final for the fourth time in six Africa Cup of Nations. They’ve reached the final twice in that time, but finished as runners-up on both occasions (2006 and 2012)
  • This will be the first time the two sides have met in the knockout stage of the competition – there is one win apiece and a draw in the previous three group stage clashes
  • Their last Afcon contest saw DR Congo win 3-1 in 2002, as they progressed to the quarter-finals
  • The Leopards have yet to score in the first half of any game at the tournament. In fact, their earliest goal so far has come in the 65th minute
  • Wilfried Bony and Dieumerci Mbokani both grabbed braces in the quarter-finals, their first goals at the tournament
  • Both Bony and Mbokani have had 15 shots at the tournament, more than any other player (including blocks). However, Mbokani has had more on target (6 to Bony’s 4)
  • Yannick Bolasie has created more chances than any other player at Afcon 2015 (10)
  • Yaya Toure has attempted more passes at this tournament than any other player (191).
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