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DRC and South Africa bosses talk up motivation for third place at Cup of Nations

By Paul Myers - RFI
South Africa  Pierre Ren-WormsRFI
FEB 9, 2024 LISTEN
© Pierre René-Worms/RFI

South Africa head coach Hugo Broos and his Democratic Republic of Congo counterpart Sebastien Desabre on Friday urged their players to make one last push for relative glory and claim third place at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.

South Africa lost in a penalty shoot-out to Nigeria at the Stade de la Paix in Bouaké in the first semi-final on Wednesday while DRC went down 1-0 to Cote d'Ivoire a few hours later at the Alassane Outtara Stadium in Abidjan.

They will play on Saturday night at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Abidjan.

"The result will depend a little bit on which team has recovered mentally from what happened in the semi-finals," said Broos. "It was also a disappointing evening from the DRC.

"I hope that the players who start the game four South Africa willl be mentally ready to go 100 percent like they did in the six previous games," added the 71-year-old Belgian who admitted he was not a fan of the play-off match.

"Of course, the game comes after a big disappointment but we are professionals and we have to make the most of this Cup of Nations by finishing third," Desabre said as his side prepared for the match.

"We're extremely motivated to play for third place," the 47-year-old Frenchman added. "It's an international match in which we'll be defending our country's colours."

DRC were beaten in the semis in 2015 by Cote d'Ivoire who went on to win the Cup of Nations for the second time. DRC claimed third place at the expense of Equatorial Guinea.

"We should be proud of what we've done so far," said DRC defender Dylan Batubinsika.

"We had a good run and we would have liked to have gone all the way but that wasn't the case.

"Our ambition is to go and get this medal," he insisted. "We need to stay focused to at least finish in third place."

DRC had been trying to reach the Cup of Nations final for the first time since their victory in 1974 when the country was called Zaire and the two-week tournament consisted of eight teams.

South Africa had not contested a final since losing to Egypt in 1998 by which time the competition had expanded to 16 sides. 

"We know very well our quality as a team," said South Africa defender Siyander Xulu on the eve of the game.

"But it's something that we had to prove to ourselves. To reach the semi-final was a dream for us as a team.

Step

"And it was a massive step for us looking at where we're coming from over the past few years. So the game against the DRC is going to be very special to us as we continue with the dream.

"We really never thought that we would be in this position at this major tournament."

Broos claimed his team's unexpectedly strong showing at the 34th Cup of Nations would add fibre to their self-belief in the country's quest to qualify for the 2026 World Cup from a group containing Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Benin.

"After Wednesday, we know that we can beat Nigeria," Broos insisted. "So this Cup of Nations has made us stronger.

"The six games we played here on this level helped us a lot and may make our chances bigger to be qualified for World Cup. And this is now where we have to focus.

"It will not be easy because there is Nigeria. But there is always Zimbabwe. there is always also Benin.

"We lost in Rwanda and this Cup of Nations has shown us that the so-called little countries have made a lot of progression especially when you see how many big countries were very soon out of this tournament."

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