\n Neeskeng Kebano of the DR Congo somersaults in celebration of his goal against Cote d’Ivoire in their Africa Cup of Nations finals clash.
\nBy Nick Said
Cote d’Ivoire must find a way to lift their performance as they prepare to tackle Group C pool leaders DR Congo at the Africa Cup of Nations on Friday (16h00 GMT).
Cote d’Ivoire coach Michel Dussuyer called his side a “pale copy” of their usual selves after a lackluster 0-0 draw with Togo in their opening match.
The Ivorians looked largely toothless against the well-organised Togolese and were unable to find a cutting edge as they seek to defend the title they won in Equatorial Guinea two years ago.
DR Congo could book their quarterfinal spot with another victory, though they too will look for an improvement, having been fortunate to come away with a 1-0 success over Morocco in their opener.
It is a significant carrot to be dangled in front of them in what is a difficult group to call, with all four sides perhaps having the expectation that they would proceed to the quarterfinals.
The Congolese will have to perform better than in their victory over Morocco, where coach Florent Ibenge admitted they were over-run in midfield.
With better finishing the Moroccans would have capitalised and that served as a warning to the Congolese.
“All matches are complicated. Do not read to much into the draw (0-0) of Cote d’Ivoire, they remain a team able to draw against France. Everything will be difficult,” said Ibenge.
The fixture is a repeat of the semifinals two years ago in Equatorial Guinea, when the Ivorians came out 3-1 winners. It was their ability to handle the pressure moments better, as well as their considerable talent, that won the day with goals from Yaya Toure, Gervinho and Wilfried Kanon.
Of the three, only the latter is at the finals this year, with Toure having retired and Gervinho out with a long-term injury. Their presence was missed against Togo and you wonder whether those absences in particular could be the difference between a title victory and an early exit this year.