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2023 AFCON: Pickel unfazed by hostile crowd awaiting DR Congo against Cote d’Ivoire

DR Congo midfielder Charles Pickel says his side will not be intimidated by the hostile atmosphere awaiting them in Wednesday’s TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-final against Cote d’Ivoire.

The Leopards face the resurgent Ivorians at the imposing 60,000 capacity Stade Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan.

A vociferous home crowd will roar on the Elephants but Pickel insists it will be approached like any other match. 

“It will be a game like any other. It’s a semi-final we are ready to compete in,” said the Cremonese midfielder.

“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.”

Coach Sebastien Desabre believes the frenzied atmosphere could work against their opponents if things go DR Congo’s way.

“Playing in a big stadium with lots of fans is usual for us. The advantage can become a disadvantage sometimes,” he said prudently. 

Desabre stressed the need for clever game management and focus from his players amid the clamour.

The Leopards have demonstrated solidity and spirit to reach the last four without conceding in the knockout rounds.

But the scale of their task is undeniable against an Ivory Coast side high on confidence after beating reigning champions Senegal.

Pickel and his teammates will need to lean on all their composure and quality to pull off another upset on hostile territory.

Yet DR Congo have shown throughout their run that they will not be easily intimidated, even in the most daunting of arenas.

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Daraja Kapoor

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