Yannick Bolasie flourishing as Africa Cup of Nations nears conclusion

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Yannick Bolasie has continued his excellent Premier League form at the Africa Cup of Nations, and the DR Congo star is a fine example of the growing reputation the tournament enjoys.

This year's AFCON has not been without its hiccups, most recently the drawing of lots, but DR Congo go into tonight's semi-final with continental powerhouses Ivory Coast with the feel good factor high.

Speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport ahead of the match, Bolasie admitted he's expecting a big challenge against Yaya Toure and co.

"It will be a tough game to be honest so I'm just going to make sure I prepare well because you can't force a great performance," Bolasie said.

"It has to come natural. It's another test for myself again."

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So far, Bolasie and his DR Congo teammates have passed every challenge with flying colours. The standard at this year's tournament is high, with perennial favourites Ivory Coast and Ghana in the last four.

DR Congo surprised some when they topped Group A, but with Bolasie and West Brom's Youssouf Mulumbu, they boast real Premier League quality.

I've fully enjoyed it [AFCON 2015], it's been a great experience for myself - Yannick Bolasie

"It's a great achievement for DR Congo," Bolasie continued. "I am honoured to be a part of it. My parents have told me there's a big buzz [in DR Congo] so hopefully now we can kick on."

Bolasie, 25, is a relatively new face in the national team set-up but he's swiftly established himself as a key part of the starting lineup.

For a competition that aims to match the European Championship and Copa America in terms of quality, it speaks volumes that more and more Premier League players are making the mid-season trip.

"There are a lot of top players playing for top clubs representing African teams, which means it's getting better," Bolasie continued.

With no winter break in England, some pundits have questioned the decision to hold the AFCON in January and February. But Bolasie didn't give it a second thought when called up.

Embrace the tournament

"I've fully enjoyed it, it's been a great experience for myself, Bolasie said. "I think I needed a bit of a change, hopefully I can go back refreshed and work my socks off until the end of the season."

For an indication of the quality at this year's tournament, you only need to look at DR Congo's opponents this evening.

Cheik Tiote is in contention to feature despite injury, while Herve Renard can also call on Manchester City duo Wilfried Bony and Yaya Toure, Roma's Gervinho, Kolo Toure and World Cup star Serge Aurier.

In fact, there's been fantastic performances right across the competition, from Algeria's new sensation Islam Slimani to DR Congo frontman and main goalscoring threat Jeremy Bokila.

His two goals were crucial in one of the games of the tournament - DR Congo's 4-2 come-from-behind victory over Congo in the quarter-finals. Then you've got hosts Equatorial Guinea and their miracle victory over Tunisia.

The host nation bagged a stoppage time equaliser against their more illustrious opponents, before booking a semi-final date with Ghana thanks to a Javier Balbao winner in extra-time.

Big test

Back to DR Congo, and they face a huge test this evening, but they have every chance of progressing to a first final since they won the competition as Zaire in 1974.

On the one hand there's Equatorial Guinea and DR Congo, lesser fancied nations who have each put together an incredible tournament to reach the latter stages.

And on the other, Ghana and Ivory Coast, traditionally formidable nations.

We should be in for the classic finish AFCON 2015 deserves.

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Yannick Bolasie

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