Democratic Republic of Congo v Ivory Coast: Renard wary of favourites tag
Ivory Coast coach Herve Renard is wary of his side holding the favourites tag ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations semi-final clash with Democratic Republic of Congo.
Renard's side flattered to deceive at the start of the tournament, registering underwhelming 1-1 stalemates with both Guinea and Mali, but subsequent victories over Cameroon and Algeria now have them as favourites.
The Wilfried Bony-inspired 3-1 quarter-final triumph over Algeria was particularly impressive considering that Christian Gourcuff’s men were the highest-ranked team in the competition and now Ivory Coast are within touching distance of another final.
However, Ivory Coast have been here before, with their passages to the final in 2006 and 2012 ultimately ending in defeat despite boasting talented squads and Renard is hoping that his players ignore such expectations against DR Congo in Bata on Wednesday.
"We came here a fortnight ago with no expectations on us," the Frenchman told reporters. "No-one was taking about us but this has changed over the last two weeks. Things change fast in football.
"After our last two wins over Cameroon and Algeria, now we are the favourites of the bookmakers but that can be dangerous.
"It is also not important. What is important is what happens on the field. We've a good balance between hard workers and talented players, this combination is perfect.
"The only thing is to win [the cup]. We won't be satisfied with anything else."
Renard will also be hoping that the 4-3 defeat to DR Congo in the qualifiers - their first competitive home loss since 2005 - will serve as extra motivation to his inexperienced squad.
But, Florent Ibenge's side come into the clash full of confidence after dispatching rivals and neighbours Congo in the quarter-finals, coming from 2-0 down to emerge 4-2 victors following a goalless first half.
This is DR Congo's first semi-final appearance since 1998 and they have failed to lift the trophy since winning the competition as Zaire in 1974, and Ibenge acknowledged that the chance for revenge could give Renard's side the edge.
"We hurt their pride when we beat them at home, the big Ivory Coast," he said. "They had not lost at home during the generation of Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure.
"But we are also armed with the motivation to reach the final. That is our target."
Ibenge will also be without two key players for the contest, as captain Youssouf Mulumbu (hamstring) will not be risked due to only being "70 per cent fit" and Gabriel Zakuani (ankle) is out.
Renard, on the other hand, has only Cheick Tiote's fitness to consider, with the Newcastle United midfielder welcomed back to training on Tuesday following an ankle injury and he will at least take a place on the bench.