BATA, Equatorial Guinea 4 – Ivory Coast will field a formidable attacking line-up and start as favourites to beat the Democratic Republic of Congo in their African Cup of Nations semifinal on Wednesday, but their shaky defence could be severely tested.
Manchester City’s new signing Wilfried Bony, who scored two keys goals in the 3-1 win over top-ranked Algeria in Sunday’s quarterfinal, will lead the forward line with Gervinho and Max Gradel, in what is expected to be an explosive display of Ivorian potential.
“If you give Bony good service, you can see he is a fantastic striker,” said coach Herve Renard on the eve of the match at Estadio de Bata.
“My problem is I’ve got so many good attackers and they all believe they should be playing, it’s hard to explain why I’ve left some of them out.”
The Ivorians, however, are notoriously vulnerable in defence as DR Congo showed when they secured a shock 4-3 win in Abidjan in a qualifying match in October.
“There are positives that we can take from that game,” warned DR Congo coach Florent Ibenge.
Both countries will miss midfield muscle with Cheick Tiote out for the Ivory Coast and captain Youssouf Mulumbu absent for the Congolese.
Hosts Equatorial Guinea and Ghana play in the second semifinal in Malabo on Thursday, with the final taking place on Sunday.
Meanwhile, DR Congo boss Florent Ibenge says he would offer an arm and a leg to make the Afcon 2015 final.
The tournament has seen the Central African nation move from Group B past the quarterfinals and now they are 90 minutes from the big game on February 8.
But the Leopards will have to first contend with highly rated Cote d’Ivoire in the semifinals on Wednesday.
“We did not have any choice in particular. Ivory Coast has been given to us to play against,” he says.
The two sides have only recently met, during qualifying. DR Congo won away in Abidjan while the Elephants also beat DRC in Kinshasa.
“If Algeria had qualified, we would have faced them too but we are happy to be in the semifinal. Ivory Coast is there so we will try to play to the best of our ability and make it to the final,” a laid back Ibenge told the press on Tuesday.
“[The familiarity that exists between the two teams] is an advantage for us and for them because we know each other. We had the chance to go to the latter stages of the tournament but a final does not come around often so we should do our best to get there.”
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.
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).