Cote d’Ivoire chase dream AFCON final appearance

Cote d’Ivoire chase dream AFCON final appearance
Franck Kessie of Cote dIvoire (l) challenges Yves Bissouma of Mali (r) during the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations match between Mali and Ivory Coast held at Peace Stadium in Bouake, Cote DIvoire on 03 February 2024 ©Djaffar Ladjal/BackpagePix

by Thando Mpembe

Tuesday Feb 06, 2024. 14:00

Cote d’Ivoire will chase a dream final appearance as hosts of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations when they face DR Congo at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan on the evening of Wednesday 7 February. Kick-off is at 10pm CAT.

Cote d’Ivoire continued to ride their luck in the tournament: after narrowly squeezing through the group stage and then overcoming Senegal on penalties, the Elephants defied being both a goal down and having two men sent off to defeat Mali 2-1 after extra time in an incredible quarterfinal this past Saturday evening. Simon Adingra and Oumar Diakite scored the key goals for Cote d’Ivoire as they recorded a victory which has the host nation believing that they are destined for glory.

We need to revise how we start our games, we have to master the game from the beginning and not to be obliged to have a lot of pressure,” said Cote d’Ivoire caretaker coach Emerse Fae, who added: “We were not far from being eliminated [against Mali], the players especially, didn’t give up, they fought into the end.”

DR Congo, after recording four successive draws in the tournament (three in Group F against Zambia, Morocco and Tanzania, and then in the round of 16 a 1-1 stalemate after extra time with Egypt before edging through on penalties), finally clicked into their higher gears this past Friday evening when they came from a goal down to trump Guinea 3-1, thanks to goals from Chancel Mbemba, Yoane Wissa and Arthur Masuaku.

Now it’s possible to go to the final,” said DR Congo coach Sebastien Desabre. “I think we had the victory we deserved. We met a great Guinean team who gave us tactical problems. It wasn’t easy, but the most important thing is to continue on the road.”

In head-to-head stats, Cote d’Ivoire and DR Congo have met in 15 matches dating back as far as 1960. The Elephants have claimed six wins compared to four for the Leopards, while five games have been drawn. The teams’ most recent meeting was an African Nations Championship group stage match in January 2023 in Annaba which ended in a 0-0 draw.

Cote d’Ivoire will be without Odilon Kossounou and Oumar Diakite due to suspension, as both were sent off in the quarterfinal against Mali. Wilfied Singo or Willy Boly are the likely replacements for the former in the starting XI, while the latter’s absence gives the Elephants fewer attacking options off the bench.

DR Congo has no reported injury or suspension worries and are likely to select the same XI that did duty against Guinea in the previous round.

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