DR Congo vs Ivory Coast | Wednesday 04 February | Bata | 21:00
The knockout stages of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations sparked some much needed excitement into the tournament with enough goals, drama and controversy in the four quarter-finals played at the weekend. Two sides that competed in the AFCON qualifiers together, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast, will clash in the first semi-final on Wednesday evening. DR Congo made an amazing comeback to beat neighbours Congo 4-2 while Ivory Coast knocked out fellow pre-tournament favourites Algeria with a 3-1 victory.
To Win (90mins)
DR Congo 47/10
Ivory Coast 13/20
DR Congo 5/2
Ivory Coast 1/4
DR Congo produced one of the best performances in their history as they came from two goals down to clinch a 4-2 victory over rivals Congo, sealing a place in the semi-final of the AFCON for the first time since 1998. Trailing by two early second-half goals, DR Congo scored an incredible four times in 25 minutes to set up just their first victory of this year's tournament. After a dull first-half which ended goalless, Congo scored twice early in the second period. However, it took Florent Ibenge's side just three minutes to respond as Dieumerci Mbokani halved Congo's lead and ten minutes later Jeremy Bokila levelled the scores. It was to get even better for DR Congo who edged in front when substitute Joel Kimwaki's header found the back of the net and, right at the death, Mbokani completed the scoring with a cool and calm finish.
Now in the last four of the competition, DR Congo have a real chance of lifting the trophy for the first time since 1968. The Leopards were fortunate to make it out of Group B after drawing all three matches against Tunisia, Cape Verde and Zambia, scoring just two goals. However, they were buoyant in attack against Congo and have a striker in Mbokani who will be glowing with confidence. It’s also about time that Yannick Bolasie steps up for his country. The Crystal Palace winger came into the tournament in good form for his club, but has managed only one goal throughout the two weeks of football. He is a player capable of the spectacular and definitely has what it takes to inspire the Leopards to the final and leave his mark on the tournament.
Wilfried Bony was Ivory Coast’s hero as he scored twice to send his nation into the semi-finals following a 3-1 win over Algeria. Manchester City’s new signing scored either side of Algeria’s equaliser and Gervinho added a late third to send the 1992 African champions into the final four. Ivory Coast booked their place in the quarter-finals after a slim 1-0 win against Cameroon in their final group game. They started the tournament with two disappointing 1-1 draws with Guinea and Mali but looking at their performance against Algeria – the number one ranked African nation – they look favourites here to reach the final.
Yaya Toure has been largely anonymous thus far in the tournament. The Manchester City midfielder has tried to be the link from midfield to the two strikers but has been a shadow of his normal self and has been subsequently substituted twice. Max Gradel has been rather more successful than him in that linking role, scoring the equaliser against Mali before hitting the winner against Cameroon with a vicious swerving shot. On his day, Yaya is the best midfielder of his type in the world. No one can drive through the centre of the park with the ball at his feet with the sheer power he possesses. If Ivory Coast are to go on and win this tournament then Yaya will have to show his quality against a stubborn DRC team. Gervinho's return to the team for the quarter-finals was refreshing after being suspended in Ivory Coast's opener. He is one of the experienced members of the squad and will be Ivory Coast’s main source of creativity in attack.
VERDICT: Draw 5/2
These sides met in qualification for the tournament with Ivory Coast finishing second in the group behind Cameroon and DRC finishing as the best third-place finishers. Their first meeting was in DRC with the Ivoirians winning 2-1. In the reverse fixture the Leopards showed their steel and earned a phenomenal 4-3 victory over the mighty Elephants. DR Congo are unbeaten in the tournament and it will take a lot from Ivory Coast to break their defence who will be even more motivated at this stage. Ivory Coast have been inconsistent and the draw looks a valuable bet.