AFCON semifinal preview: Ivory Coast looks to exorcise its big game demons

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Herve Renard wants you to know that this Ivory Coast isn’t going to be troubled by the ghosts of tournaments’ past.

If that’s the case, DR Congo is in a lot of trouble come Wednesday’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinal.

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Despite traditionally having one of the most talented rosters in Africa, Les Elephants have struggled with expectations. They have a single AFCON title (1992), and have been bounced from the group stage of three consecutive World Cups despite usually being among the critics’ darlings to make a long run.

Renard says, “No more.”

“This is not the Ivory Coast of the past. There are a lot of new players who I’m sure not many of you knew about before this tournament.

“These new players worked very hard in the preparations and showed me they are able to play in the starting line-up. We have a good balance between those who work hard and those with a lot of talent. I think this combination is perfect of the Ivory Coast.”

source: AP
Renard

In particular, Saint-Etienne’s Max Gradel has stood out amongst better known teammates like Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho (the latter of which took a red card and missed two group stage games).

But will the ghosts creep up in the semis, with just DR Congo standing in the way between a match-up with Ghana or hosts Equatorial Guinea?

The Leopards themselves have their own ghouls to deal with, having failed to achieve much since championships in 1968 and 1974. This is just DR Congo’s second trip past the quarterfinals since that second title, and the nation hasn’t been to a World Cup since 1974 (and it went as Zaire).

Terek Grozny striker Jeremy Bokila and Dynamo Kyiv forward Dieumerci Mbokani have paced DR Congo into the semifinals. Do they have enough to lead the Leopards into a surprising AFCON final?