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AFCON 2023 Semifinal Preview: Ivory Coast vs DR Congo

The second semifinal at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday features an all-Francophone duel between hosts Ivory Coast and the Leopards of DR Congo. The hosts have multiple absences due to suspensions leaving interim coach Emerse Faé with some difficult decisions to make but the Elephants continue to gain momentum on their charge. A determined and talented DR Congo side awaits who are finding their form at the right time. Read all about both teams in our preview of the match below:

Ivory Coast vs DR Congo- 20:00 GMT

Ivory Coast

Seko Fofana and Franck Kessié will need to make runs forward and create as well as finish opportunities in support of the Ivorian attack

Turbulence is the theme of the tournament for hosts Ivory Coast who continue to find a way to survive despite plenty of adversity on the pitch. Given a lifeline after a disastrous group stage, interim coach Emerse Faé rallied his troops to an upset of defending champions Senegal before an inspired comeback saw the Elephants overcome Mali in extra time despite a numerical disadvantage. Now Faé must deal with four absences related to red card and yellow card suspensions but there is plenty of talent and determination to persevere despite the circumstances.

Right back and captain Serge Aurier is one of the players suspended as well as central defender Odilon Kossounou. Nottingham Forest defender Willy Boly is the favorite to replace Kossounou and Wilfried Singo is a natural replacement for Aurier. Evan Ndicka is improving as the tournament procedes and will partner Boly but Ivorian supporters will remember their partnership was exposed in the shocking 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea earlier this tournament, which may make Faé consider a different partnership. Left back Ghislain Konan is one of the few consistent performers and offers attacking ability when he gets forward.

Jean Michaël Seri is one of the revelations since Faé became the head coach, providing excellent industry at the defensive midfield position. Seri’s efforts allow Franck Kessié and Seko Fofana to focus more on their attacking duties and the Congolese midfield will be a bit less formidable than Mali’s strong midfield which limited them for long stretches. Faé mentioned that Sébastien Haller and Simon Adingra are back to full fitness and it is now time for them to be included in the eleven from the beginning but the coach may once again use them as impact substitutes. Jérémie Boga, Jonathan Bamba and veteran Max Gradel are all candidates to play on the opposite wing from Adingra but Gradel appears the slight favorite to get the nod.

Probable XI

DR Congo

Chancel Mbemba is the defensive general from his center back position for DR Congo and even scored a goal in the quarterfinal victory over Guinea

Following four consecutive draws to begin the competition, DR Congo continue to improve their performance and an excellent quarterfinal victory was a massive morale boost for the charges of Sébastien Desabre. The French coach expressed his delight with the 3-1 result and the Leopards are motivated to continue making waves against a weakened host nation. Desabre also welcomed the return of playmaker Gaël Kakuta from injury for the match on Wednesday which gives the coach yet another option in a dangerous and talented attack.

Kakuta may be used as a substitute against Ivory Coast with decent performances from replacement Théo Bongonda who moved inside from his usual position on the wing. Yoane Wissa is the star of the Leopards with his high industry and relentless runs to get behind opposition defenses. Another player who continues his emergence at this competition is Meschack Elia whose accurate crosses and remarkable pace are another dangerous weapon in the arsenal for the Congolese. Cédric Bakambu is the veteran leader up top who Desabre is embracing as the best option from the beginning despite failing to score in five matches.

The defense is anchored by captain Chancel Mbemba who continues to embrace a leadership role with the Leopards that is increasing his level of performance. Henoc Inonga Baka is a fierce presence who will partner Mbemba and the wide defenders are also consistent and effective with left back Arthur Masuaku and right back Gédéon Kalulu emerging as reliable veteran presences. Charles Pickel and Samuel Moutoussamy continue to form an excellent central midfield partnership that can support the attack as well as the defense depending on the situation.

Probable XI

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