I thought of this preview by Jonathan Wilson was excellent.
In the other semi-final We are in the middle of extra time between Nigeria and South Africa, the score is 1-1. William Troost-Ekong gave the West African side the lead from the penalty spot after 67 minutes before Teboho Mokoena equalized in the 90th minute, also from 12 meters, sending the game into extra time.
“After everything we’ve been through, we’re not afraid of anything anymore.”
What a great, ridiculous tournament it was and no team embodied the wild energy of this Afcon better than the hosts, Ivory Coast. It was Elephants midfielder Seko Fofana with the above quote ahead of this semi-final against the Democratic Republic of Congo and there is a sense of destiny for the home country to reach the final, such are the obstacles that Ivory Coast have overcome, to reach the final four.
Two defeats in group games – including a humiliating 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea – left Ivory Coast without coach Jean-Louis Gasset and on the brink of elimination. Only a few surprising results in the other groups saw them progress as fourth of four third-placed teams with just three points.
Under interim coach Emerse Faé, Ivory Coast also fought their way through both knockout rounds: they scored a late equalizer, then won on penalties against Senegal and then an even more dramatic quarter-final against Mali.
If Ivory Coast were hoping for a straightforward semi-final, this is not the case. Four players are suspended – Odilon Kossounou, captain Serge Aurier, as well as Christian Kouame and Oumar Diakite – the latter of whom was sent off against Mali for taking off his shirt while celebrating his 121st-minute winner.
To make matters worse, the Democratic Republic of Congo is increasingly looking like a real power in this tournament. They have a good team, with Marseille’s Chancel Mbemba, Brentford’s Wissa and West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku all getting on the scoresheet. The latter scored one of the goals of the tournament, an eerily similar performance to one he scored a goal against Chelsea in 2021 (although he later admitted that the Chelsea goal was a coincidence).
The Democratic Republic of Congo also has an external motivation: the country continues to be plagued by conflict, and many players are speaking out in this tournament. The UN peacekeeping mission is withdrawing, and there have recently been fighting between government troops and the M23 rebels in the east of the country, while at the same time attacks by Islamist groups on civilian targets are continuing.
“Everyone sees the massacres in eastern Congo. But everyone is silent,” wrote DR Congo and Real Betis striker Cédric Bakambu. “Use the same energy with which you talk about the Nations Cup to highlight what is happening here. There are no small gestures.”
All in all, it’s an exciting game. Ivory Coast are favorites in Abidjan but Afcon have rarely shown their form and DR Congo are more than capable of an upset.
Begin: 8:00 p.m. (local time and GMT)