BATA, Equatorial Guinea, February 3 – Ivory Coast will be gunning for revenge in Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bata after a stunning home loss in a qualifier between them last October.
“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. They will now want to avenge that loss,” said DR Congo coach Florent Ibenge referring to the famous 4-3 qualifying triumph.
“But we are also armed with the motivation to reach the final. That is our target.”
Max-Alain Gradel fired a wonder goal against Cameroon for the 1992 African champions to win Group D in Equatorial Guinea and he said Ivory Coast want to go all the way after they were regarded as favourites in previous editions of the competition without ever lifting the trophy.
“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 predicted.
“It’s together that we are going to go all the way. We are going to work to finish the job.”
The clash could not have come at a better time for both teams as they appear to have hit peak form after indifferent starts to this tournament.
The Elephants victory against Cameroon, which secured top place in the group, came after come-from-behind 1-1 draws with Mali and Guinea.
They then stepped up their game against Africa’s top-ranked team Algeria to win 3-1 and advance to the semi-finals with new Manchester City signing Wilfried Bony bagging a brace.
DR Congo also struggled in the group phase, drawing all three matches and squeezing into the knockout stage because they scored more goals than Cape Verde.
However, in a quarter-final against neighbours Congo Brazzaville they showed great character by coming from two goals down to win 4-2 in port city Bata.
This has been the best run by the two-time champions since 2006, when they reached the quarter-finals before losing heavily to hosts Egypt.
But the Leopards have been dealt two major injury blows with skipper and midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu and defender Gabriel Zakuani ruled out.
DR Congo will be relieved that Ukraine-based striker Dieumerci Mbokani found his scoring touch with a brace against Congo.
Diminutive Osasuna winger Cedrick Mabwati could test the suspect Ivorian defence with his blistering pace down the wings.
The Ivory Coast attack is also firing again on the evidence of the brace by Bony, and one from Roma winger Gervinho, who missed two group games after being red-carded against Guinea.
Newcastle midfielder Cheick Tiote is nursing an injury and may miss the match that stands between his country and a second Nations Cup final in four years.