RENARD: WE HAVE OUR OWN EXPECTATIONS

After reaching the last four against all odds, Cote d’Ivoire coach Herve Renard says “he is only interested in winning” ahead of their semi-final clash against DR Congo on Wednesday in Bata.

After an unfamiliar start to their campaign with two draws against Mali and Guinea, the Elephants showed the stuffs they are made of to beat four-time winners, Cameroon 1-0 in the final game of the group phase and go through as winners of Group D.

“Nobody was talking about us, if now they have changed their minds I don’t know. Few weeks ago, we were underdogs,” said the 46-year old Frenchman who won the Africa Cup of Nations title with Zambia in 2012.

Incidentally, the feat that earned former AS Cannes defender global fame came at the expense of the Ivorians (Zambia won 8-7 on penalties). Now in charge of an Ivorian side, who have since 2006 failed to live-up to their pre-tournament favourites tag, he reckons that there is a huge drive to land the ‘Holy Grail’ this time after several unsuccessful attempts.

Players such as Yaya Toure, his brother Kolo, Siaka Tiene, Cheikh Tiote, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho and Boubacar ‘Copa’ Barry are the current survivors of the often brandished Ivorian ‘golden generation’.

“I don’t want to talk about 2012. History is different. Some of my players have a lot of experience, some of which are bad. In life, you can change your bad experience to good and can use bad memory to improve,” Renard told Cafonline.com.

“We have a different style than the Cote d’Ivoire team of the past. There are some players most people did not know before the tournament. They have worked very hard and shown they deserve to be in the team. We have a good balance between hard work and determination.

“To be realistic, we have our own expectations. When you start a tournament, your always want to be on the same line.”

The Elephants will be up against DR Congo, a side that denied Renard an opportunity to meet his mentor Claude Le Roy at the last four, after a stunning comeback from the Leopards saw them beat neighbours Diables Rouges of Congo 4-2 in their quarters clash last Saturday in Bata.

It will be third meeting between the two sides in less than six months after the qualifiers. The Ivorians won 2-1 in Kinshasa before the Leopards found their stripes in Abidjan, stunning the hosts 4-3.

“Offensively (DR Congo) they have a lot of skills with a different style. Their strikers have power and are strong in the air. They are dangerous offensively and a lot of them are used to be playing together. Their team spirit is very strong.

“I have to prepare my team psychologically,” added Renard, who expressed delight at the near back-to-fitness of midfielder Tiote, who sat out of the quarters due to injury.

“He has started light training and it will be difficult for him to start. But he will be in the team.

Ghana will face hosts Equatorial Guinea in the other semis clash on Thursday, 5 February 2015 in Malabo.