ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire – The penultimate stage of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Côte d’Ivoire, is set with Nigeria, DR Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, and South Africa emerging as the four semi-finallists in the 34th edition of the continent’s premier sporting event.
The Super Eagles stand as the most experienced team at this stage. Making their 16th appearance in a CAF AFCON semi-final, Nigeria aims for one thing – securing a spot in the final.
Despite entering the tournament as favourites, Nigeria faced challenges, notably with a drawn match against Equatorial Guinea.
While the focus was on their attacking prowess, the defence proved resilient, conceding only one goal.
Nigeria manager Jose Peseiro has called on his side to be more clinical up front despite boasting the strongest defence in Cote d’Ivoire.
The Super Eagles are into the semi-finals after a 1-0 win over Angola which represented their fourth straight clean sheet at the competition.
Nigeria is steadily advancing in the AFCON with a clash with South Africa on Wednesday.
The coach and his players are now two matches away from a fourth triumph for Nigeria.
While praising Nigeria’s defensive solidity, Peseiro hopes to see improvements in attack. “Once again we played without conceding, scored a goal, but I would have liked more. The team could have created more opportunities,” Peseiro said according to cafonline.
With just six goals scored in five games, the Portuguese feels Nigeria aren’t capitalizing on their quality. “We are a quality team, Angola was very good, but we had more luck. I remain satisfied with my players but want us to be more efficient,” Peseiro added.
The manager did admit that chance creation hasn’t been helped by injury absences.
“We’re missing some key creators like Iheanacho and Aribo, so it’s been hard. But others must now step up,” he noted.
As Nigeria chase a fourth AFCON crown, Peseiro knows finding a clinical edge could be decisive.
A victory against South Africa on Wednesday at the Stade de la Paix in Bouake would bring them closer to this important goal.
The Super Eagles have ground out results thanks to their miserly defence. But should they rediscover their scoring touch, Peseiro may yet lead Nigeria back to the pinnacle of African football.
Anticipation met reality as the Democratic Republic of Congo secured its first victory in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Côte d’Ivoire 2023.
Facing Guinea in the quarter-finals, the Leopards displayed strength, overcoming an early goal by the Syli National to win 3-1.
This victory marks the fifth time in the history of DR Congo that they have reached the semi-finals of the Cup of Nations.
In 1968, they beat Ethiopia 2-3 after extra time, and in 1974, Egypt fell by the same scoreline.
DR Congo head coach Sebastien Desabre said that his side has “points” to win the AFCON.
The Leopards had drawn all four previous games against Zambia, Morocco, Tanzania and Egypt. But their 3-1 triumph over Guinea on Saturday earned a semi-final clash with hosts Côte d’Ivoire.
For Desabre, the long-awaited win shows his team is hitting form at the perfect time. “This victory comes at the right time as we are gaining momentum in the competition. We won, we drew, but did not lose,” the Frenchman said.
Desabre now believes DR Congo can dream of the ultimate prize. “It would be foolish not to believe in the final victory. But it will be difficult,” he conceded.
The coach feels DR Congo has the firepower to trouble any defence, despite only scoring three goals prior to the quarters.
“We have forwards like Bakambu, Banza and Mayele Fiston. We know it was a matter of time before we succeeded,” Desabre insisted.
With momentum building and a first AFCON crown now within reach, the DR Congo boss is daring to dream.
“When you reach the semi-finals, you first want to reach the final. And if you have the chance to reach the final, you want to win it,” said Desabre.
“We will do everything to have no regrets.”
January 22, 2024, witnessed the Elephants making headlines globally. Almost eliminated after a 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea, they bounced back, eliminating the reigning African champions, Senegal.
In a dramatic victory against Mali, Oumar Diakite’s last-minute goal secured their place in the semi-finals.
In their ninth semi-final appearance, Côte d’Ivoire faces DR Congo, setting the stage for a rematch of the 2015 semi-final where the Elephants emerged victorious with a 3-1 scoreline in Bata, Equatorial Guinea.
Côte d’Ivoire stop-gap coach Emerse Fae said that his side felt “resurrected” after overturning their disastrous start to remarkably reach the semi-finals.
The Elephants only qualified from the group stage as one of the best third-placed teams after defeats to Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.
Fae was named to take charge of the team on an interim basis after coach Jean Louis Gasset was sacked for the host nation’s disastrous start to the competition.
Hosts Cote d’Ivoire failed to secure automatic qualification to the tournament’s knockout stage when it was beaten 4-0 by Equatorial Guinea in its final group game which led to the sacking of the Frenchman.
The side looks to have turned the corner after Fae took over and has now steered the side to the last four.
But Fae revealed: “I told the players we were dead after the defeat against Equatorial Guinea, and we were resurrected after the Morocco game with Zambia.”
That lifeline allowed Côte d’Ivoire to stun defending champions Senegal and overcome 10-man Mali after extra time to set up a semi-final with DR Congo.
Fae admitted experiencing a whirlwind of emotions during the dramatic Mali win. “I had all the emotions running through my head, trying to reflect to see the ideal substitutions,” he said.
With the Elephants excelling after being written off, Fae is taking nothing for granted ahead of facing DR Congo.
“When you reach the semi-finals, you play with teams of high quality, so we are going to prepare ourselves,” the coach asserted.
Bafana Bafana returns to the pinnacle, ending a 24-year absence from the Cup of Nations semi-finals.
The South Africans impressed, eliminating Morocco, a World Cup semi-finallist, and then adding Cape Verde, previously unbeaten.
Their journey continues in the semi-finals, where they face familiar foes.
In their last semi-final appearance, South Africa suffered a 2-0 loss to Nigeria in 2000.