IT’S semi-final time in the African Cup of Nations. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) examines the best bets available on DR Congo’s clash with Ivory Coast on Wednesday night.
DR Congo v Ivory Coast | Wednesday 19.00 | ITV4
The African Cup of Nations burst into life at the quarter-final stage with an avalanche of goals, controversy and ding-dong battles. It sets this week’s semi-finals up perfectly with two enticing fixtures to look forward to.
First up is Ivory Coast’s clash with DR Congo in Bata. The Elephants are in the final four for the fourth time in six AFCON tournaments but they’ve only reached the final twice in that time, finishing as runners-up on both occasions (2006 and 2012).
Current coach Herve Renard was in charge of the Elephants’ opposition in 2012, leading Zambia to glory but he’s confident Ivory Coast can get over their ‘chokers’ tag and go the distance this time around. The Frenchman has claimed the squad has the “perfect” blend of experience and youth with a strong spirit within the group.
But Renard’s team have failed to fire in Equatorial Guinea so far. Yaya Toure and co laboured through the group-phase winning just once and had to survive a one-way onslaught against Algeria in the quarter-finals. Goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo was the star of the show but Wilfried Bony took the headlines for his two-goal show.
I’ve slagged Ivory Coast enough during this competition, there’s no need to fire more insults in their direction. But they’re going to end their 22-year wait for a continental trophy, they’re going to have to step up a level. The bookmakers have chalked Renard’s charges up as 4/6 favourites but there’s no way I could be involved at such short prices.
Pre-tournament and during the competition the Elephants have been priced up on reputation and the sprinkling of Premier League stars within their ranks. Those that have watched this side through qualifying and this year’s finals will be quick to tell you, there’s a vulnerability about Ivory Coast and a soft underbelly that could easily be exposed.
DR Congo know all about the AFCON favourites as the two sides faced off during qualifying. The Leopards shocked Ivory Coast with a 4-3 win in Adbidjan in October and it’ll be used as a motivational tool by the underdogs and their coach Florent Ibenge on Wednesday night.
Ibenge, who was appointed last August and combines the role with being boss of AS Vita Club in Kinshasa, is the only African coach left in the tournament. He said, “We hurt their pride when we beat them at home, the big Ivory Coast. They had not lost at home during the generation of Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure,”
The Leopards haven’t been to an AFCON final since 1974 and it’s their first semi-final appearance since 1998 but there’s certainly a feeling they could give their more illustrious opponents a real run for their money.
Having qualified from Group B with three draws, they produced a remarkable comeback victory against neighbours Congo in the last eight. Trailing 2-0, DR showcased their immense attacking potential to come out on top with a 4-2 victory. The quality forwards Dieumerci Mbokani and Neeskens Kebano shouldn’t be underestimated, especially if Yannick Bolasie is on his game.
Skipper Youssouf Mulumbu won’t be risked and defender Gabriel Zakuani isn’t fit to start, leaving the Leopards a little short in defensive areas but I’m confident they’ve enough in their locker when on the front foot to give Ivory Coast a game.
So I’m keen to venture into the goals markets, as is normally the case with Ivory Coast games. They’ve scored in 39/42 matches now with 23/29 also rewarding punters in the Both Teams To Score market. DR Congo can boast 7/9 BTTS winners now and should we combine the two teams’ results at AFCON2015, six of their eight matches have also featured BTTS as a winning selection.
Looking back at AFCON semi-finals since the start of 2000, only 6/16 final four games featured goals for both sides. But the 2015 edition has already thrown up a whopping 18/28 winners in this market. The quarter-final stage threw up a few exciting end-to-end duels (average goals-per-game in the quarter-finals were 3.75) and so I’m willing to take the 5/4 from William Hill that this match features another tick in the Both Teams To Score column.
DR Congo v Ivory Coast – Both Teams To Score (5/4 William Hill)