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AFCON: DR Congo prepares for semifinal clash against hosts Ivory Coast

DR Congo's soccer players training in Abidjan   -  
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Ivory Coast

The Democratic Republic of Congo are preparing for their huge Africa Cup of Nations semifinal clash against hosts Ivory Coast at the Alassane Ouattara stadium in Abidjan on Wednesday.

The Elephants started the tournament poorly but are just 90 minutes plus extra-time and penalties away from reaching the AFCON final.

“It’s often said that appetite comes while eating and the more we progress in the competition the more we felt strong and solid,” said midfielder Max Gradel.

“We feel there is a chance we can go all the way. But it is also important not to go too fast and to respect the opponent.”

Gradel added that the team’s confidence keeps improving the more they stay in the competition, and a win on home ground would be very special.

While many believe the Elephants remain on course to win the competition, the Leopards also have much to prove.

They are looking to win a place in the finals for the first time in 50 years and say they will not let themselves be intimidated by the home crowd.

While it is their 19th AFCON, they have long since not been considered a major force in African football.

The last time they won was in 1974, as the former Zaire, and that same year went on to play in the World Cup in what was then West Germany.

But now coach Sebastien Desabre said it would be stupid not to believe the Leopards could go all the way and make it into the finals.

Midfielder Charles Pickel said he believes it will be a game like any other and the team is ready to compete.

"We play in front of big crowds for our clubs so it’s not entirely new. They will have huge support but we’re aware of that. But, yeah, we are really happy to be here and we want to go as far as possible,” he said.

The game kicks off at 8pm GMT.

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