KUMASI: Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou has said the Elephants are the best team of the 2008 Africa Nations Cup semi-finalists and no team can stop them in their quest to land their second continental crown.
The Ivorians clash with five-time champions Egypt tonight in the second semi-final of the 2008 Nations Cup.
The encounter is a rematch of the final of the 2006 edition of the competition which the Pharaohs won 4-2 on penalties after there were no goals even after extra time in front of their highly partisan home fans who jammed the Cairo International Stadium.
“If we play as a team, no one can stop us, boasted the Chelsea forward, who at the time of the 2006 final was battling to get Dutch citizenship so as to play for his adopted country.
“Our goal is to win the cup. Egypt now stand in our way and we just have to beat them if we want to keep alive our dream of winning the competition.
There’s no such thing as revenge in football as both teams are not the same as they were two years ago.
He added: “Egypt have looked a very strong team at this tournament and so we expect a very difficult game because they have good players who can make a difference in a game and unlike a team like Guinea, they will not sit back in defense and wait for us to attack them.
“We are just a game away from the final and so we will give everything we have in 90 minutes to get there.
Kalou has marked his Nations Cup debut with three goals thus far, same as Chelsea teammate, Didier Drogba. “We have created chances and have the personnel to put the ball in the net all the time, said the former Feyenoord star, who now sports a special hairstyle, same as teammate Didier Zokora.
“Against Guinea, we looked very sharp and strong. We may have won by five goals but Guinea did not make it easy for us until we scored our second goal. But we again showed that we can go all the way this time.
The Ivory Coast, whose only triumph in this biennial tournament was achieved 16 years ago in Senegal at the expense of the Black Stars of Ghana, will again go into this explosive tie without Arsenal center-half Kolo Toure, who is yet to regain fitness since his groin injury in a group game against Benin.
“We are prepared for Ivory Coast, who are the best team at this tournament. They are a great attacking team with players like Kalou, (Aruna) Dindane and Drogba and as such we have to do a lot of work on our defense, said coach Hassan Shehata, whose team are a spot above their foes in the Fifa ranking.
“We are defending champions and we very much want to keep our crown. Both teams have clashed nine times in the Nations Cup final phase since the 1970 edition in Khartoum, Sudan, with the Egyptians winning six of these games while two have ended in draws. The Ivorians have triumphed only once – a 3-1 win recorded in 1990.