While the Leopards of DR Congo might have faced many tough opponents during the ongoing 2023 TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Cote D'Ivoire, the upcoming semi-final duel against the host, Elephants of Cote D'Ivoire, will surely be a different challenge, especially with the home advantage.
For many observers, it would require courage for any country to cause an upset against the host at this stage, especially with the Elephants of Côte D'Ivoire having experienced a slow start in their AFCON campaign.
The host, Cote d'Ivoire, welcomes the Leopards of DR Congo to their jungle for the semi-finals of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup clash. The historic return to Ebimpe will remind the Elephants of their first game after a 4-0 humiliation against Equatorial Guinea in the group stage. They have another chance to appease the supporters in Abidjan against a DRC side eager to reach the competition's decider since 1974.
For the Elephants of Côte d'Ivoire, winning this match is crucial, considering their previous struggles in the group stage to qualify for the knockout stage. The Ivory Coast will battle Congo DR at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in the second semi-final at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
It is the Elephants' first game in Ebimpe since their 4-0 humiliation against Equatorial Guinea in the group stage, providing a chance to appease the supporters in Abidjan against a DRC side keen to make the competition's decider since 1974.
Despite challenges with injuries and a difficult group stage, the host nation has soldiered on. The Elephants were on the brink of elimination after losing heavily in their final group-stage fixture against Equatorial Guinea. However, they have shown resilience under Emerse Fae's leadership, eliminating defending champions Senegal and securing a phenomenal victory over Mali in the quarter-final.
While it remains uncertain if Ivory Coast has anything left in the tank, the hosts hope to draw inspiration from the home crowd to reach their first final since 2015.
Both teams, Cote D'Ivoire and DR Congo, are familiar with each other, having met five times previously at AFCON tournaments. Ivory Coast holds an edge with two wins, two draws, and one loss. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in the AFCON 2017 group stage. The only previous meeting in the knockout phase was at the semi-final stage in 2015, where the Elephants won 3-1.
For the Elephants of Côte d'Ivoire, this marks their 10th appearance in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals, becoming the fifth nation to play in as many as 10 semi-finals. DR Congo, reaching their sixth semi-final, won the previous two against hosts (Ethiopia in 1968 and Egypt in 1974) but have never won a semi-final match when not playing that year’s hosts.
In the last three occasions where the host nation reached the semi-final, they were eliminated without scoring a goal. Côte d'Ivoire reached the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-final with a 2-1 win over Mali, scoring in the 90th and 120th minutes. Should DR Congo reach the final, it would be their first final since 1974.
Côte d'Ivoire, if they win against DR Congo, could become the first nation to reach the final of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations despite suffering a four-goal defeat earlier in the tournament (lost 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea) since Nigeria in 1990.
Oumar Diakité's 120th-minute winner against Mali in the 2023 AFCON quarter-final makes him the Elephants’ youngest AFCON scorer since Tchiressoua Guel in 1994. Only Angola’s Fredy (11) has created more chances at the 2023 CAF Africa Cup of Nations than DR Congo’s Arthur Masuaku (10). Yoane Wissa has scored two of DR Congo’s five goals at this year’s AFCON.