Ivory Coast and DR Congo meet in an intriguing Group B clash to start off Wednesday’s action at the 2022 African Nations Championship. The Congolese team played to a scoreless draw in their opening match against Uganda but the Leopards have been facing distractions off the pitch in addition to a difficult Group B. Ivory Coast suffered a disappointing defeat to Senegal in their opening match, making Wednesday’s clash one the Elephants will need to obtain a result from.
The players of DR Congo led by veteran fullback Issama Mpeko are a talented group but issues of bonus payments lurked in the background during preparations for the CHAN and have erupted ahead of Wednesday’s match. With threats of a strike from the Leopards the Congolese president sent Minister of Sports and Leisure, Serge Nkonde, to Algeria for delivery of the players’ bonuses after a long period of delays. Coach Otis Ngoma chose to focus on the match in his pre-match comments and was blunt about what his team needs to do: “We have to get a result against Cote d’Ivoire. The game tomorrow is hyper important.”
Ngoma promised several changes to his lineup after a disappointing opener against Uganda. One player who is likely to retain his place is 20-year-old DC Motema Pembe forward Jonathan Ikangalombo who was the Leopards’ biggest threat with his pace and direct approach. Mpeko should keep his right back spot and TP Mazembe midfielder Zemanga Sozé could get the start in the heart of the Congolese midfield after coming on as a halftime substitute against Uganda. Ngoma mentioned that inexperience played a factor in the disappointing result and that appears likely to influence his starting eleven.
Ivory Coast failed to convince against Senegal and paid the price late on despite the goalkeeping heroics of ASEC Mimosas goalkeeper Charles Folly who saved a penalty kick. The Elephants remain confident of impressing in Algeria and are choosing to dismiss the opening result and focus on winning their next two Group B matches. Vice captain Marc Soua referenced his participation at the 2016 CHAN when Ivory Coast lost their opener before going on to advance to the semifinals as reason for hope. Coach Soualiho Haïdara pointed out that DR Congo’s strength lies in their play on the flanks and declared he had a plan that will be successful on Wednesday.
Ivory Coast was plagued in their opener by attackers who were too selfish including ASEC Mimosas forward Aubin Kramo, who chose to launch long range shots when more patience was the better option. Former Burkina Faso youth national team player Salifou Diarrassouba showed positive signs as a substitute and could be among the options Haïdara turns to. The coach made it clear that some players will step into the lineup to get their opportunity.
More on the match is in the links below.