Cote d’Ivoire coach Emerse Fae expects a good start from his charges in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against DR Congo on Wednesday evening.
The Elephants defeated Mali 2-1 in extra time to qualify for the semis and are aware of the tough test against the Leopards who beat Guinea 3-1 to book their spot.
Fae knows his talented Elephants must seize the initiative from the very first whistle at Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan after riding their luck en route to the last four.
“In our previous games we’ve struggled at the start,” he acknowledged frankly ahead of the showdown in Abidjan.
“This time we’ll look to capitalise on the confidence we’ve built to impose our gameplan from the off.”
Cote d’Ivoire advanced via penalty shootouts against Senegal after chasing the game, then left it late to see off Mali with a last-gasp winner.
Full concentration. 💯
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Those energy-sapping victories were a testament to the spirit Fae has fostered since taking the reins last year.
“We were almost out but we refocused as a group, restored confidence and understood we had to be united,” he explained.
“I knew we had the quality, the key was recreating that team dynamic.”
Fae also believes his men will handle the pressure better against DR Congo with expectations lowered.
“There was more pressure in our last two games than this semi-final, even though it’s a bigger match,” he stated.
“We’ll manage it by remembering how far we’ve come and the effort taken just to get here.”
Make no mistake, this represents a seismic encounter between two giant clubs of the African game.
With the final now tantalisingly close, Fae will urge his Elephants to play without fear right from the first whistle.
But in DR Congo they face determined opponents brimming with belief under coach Sebastien Desabre.
The Leopards will relish the chance to finally step out of the shadow cast by their golden generation of the 1970s.
Cote d’Ivoire versus DR Congo has all the makings of a tight and tactical Afcon classic.
Yet with a place in the final at stake, Fae will demand his Elephants seize their moment on the big stage by making a statement start.