Elephants will tread carefully today

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The Ivorians progressed from Group B with a perfect points record to underline their credentials for a first title since 1992 in the 16-team tournament.

“We will go into this game with no apprehension but with a lot of respect for our opponents,” coach Gerard Gili told Goal.com.

“We know it is going to be a difficult game as it’s a knockout match and we will remain humble. However, we have a squad that has long been preparing for this type of encounter.”

The Ivorians will rely on Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, who has recovered from a knee injury suffered at the start of December and is keen to make amends for a penalty miss that cost his team in the shootout that followed the 2006 final against Egypt.

However, Frenchman Gili may have to do without centre back Kolo Toure, the Arsenal defender who picked up a groin injury during Ivory Coast’s 4-1 demolition of Benin in the group phase.

Gili said earlier in the week that the player was doubtful. Marc Zoro, who scored in a 3-0 defeat of Mali earlier this week, will deputise should he be ruled out.

“To win the Nations Cup, you need a squad of 23 players at their best, with a lot of solidarity within the group,' said Gili, who believes Ivory Coast have what it takes to win the trophy.”

Guinea will be without influential captain Pascal Feindouno, who was given a two-match ban for violent conduct during his team's 3-2 victory over Morocco in Group A.

“I know my team mates can do it without me,” the St Etienne striker said this week. Striker Souleymane Youla said they would do their best.

“When he is on the field, every ball goes through him,” said the Lille player.

“Everybody knows how important a player Pascal is but we don’t have a choice, we have to win without him and welcome him back for the semi-finals.”

Guinea coach Robert Nouzaret, who led Ivory Coast from 1996 to 1998 and between 2002 and 2004, said he would have preferred to play another team.

“I am happy to meet them, of course, but I would have preferred to play them in the final in Accra. However, playing Ivory Coast is a good thing for my players. They know there is no room for mistake against such a team so I think they will be all the more focused,” he said.

Ivory Coast players and staff were not immediately available for comment following news on Friday of the death of former coach Uli Stielike’s son.

Michael Stielike (23), who had been awaiting a lung transplant, fell into a coma before the beginning of the competition, prompting the resignation of the German coach.

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