Crystal Palace’s Yannick Bolasie out to prove he’s ‘one of the best in Africa’ for DR Congo

'Physically I'm ready' says Yannick Bolasie, the Crystal Palace man leading a resurgent DR Congo side at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Yannick Bolasie and DR Congo play their second Africa Cup of Nations group match against Cape Verde on Thursday, January 22, 2015. Paul Ellis / AFP
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Exciting Crystal Palace forward Yannick Bolasie says he is prepared to take the kicks and the tough tackles as he hopes to make his presence felt at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The fleet-footed Bolasie snatched DR Congo a 1-1 draw in their opening Group B match with Zambia in Ebebiyin at the weekend and was later picked as the man of the match.

He was also involved in a couple of bruising challenges with his Zambia shadow Davies Nkausu and he expects more such attention from defenders at this tournament.

"Physically I'm ready. I normally take kicks in the English Premier League, so it is nothing new for me," said the forward, who has been accompanied to the championship by his athletics performance coach.

“There are some great players at the tournament and I want to prove that I’m onside with them as one of the best in Africa.”

Two years ago, he turned down the chance to feature at this tournament, preferring to stay back at Palace having only just joined the South London club from Bristol City.

“In 2013, I had just moved to Crystal Palace. I had started to play games and that was what I wanted to do. Together with my physio (Ray Wilson), we decided it was the best decision for me as I didn’t want any disruption,” he explained.

“Four months afterwards, I was called up and I answered it. Nobody would want to miss this tournament, but personally it was a good choice. We (Crystal Palace) got promoted and now the competition is back.”

But despite the talent in the DR Congo squad, they have struggled to return to top reckoning since winning the continental competition twice, in 1968 and 1974.

They only returned to the tournament in 2013 after a seven-year absence and even then they crashed out in the first round after drawing all three group matches.

However, Bolasie has warned that his team cannot be discounted in Equatorial Guinea this time.

“Our group in the qualifiers (with Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone) was tough, but I always had the confidence we would go through as the third-best team especially after we beat Sierra Leone,” he said.

“Now we have to take advantage at the tournament. Looking at all the groups, C and D are the ones you wouldn’t want to be in. Every group is tough though.

“In our group, Cape Verde have some quality players, Tunisia are always good despite the fact that I don’t know any of their players. Zambia were champions in 2012. To be honest, if I had the choice, I would want to be in this group (Group B).”

Expectations have been raised around the current squad, which features Europe-based names such as Chancel Mbemba of Anderlecht, Cedric Makiadi of Werder Bremen, Dieumerci Mbokani of Dynamo Kiev and captain Youssouf Mulumbu of West Bromwich Albion.

Bolasie continued: “The expectations are really high. When you play a game and 60,000 fans turn up, that’s incredible. It shows that we are a big football nation.

“We have won this competition twice and there are a lot of expectations, with the current squad having players coming from Europe.

“We want to get out of the group stage and anything can happen after that.

“We like the challenge. We don’t care what others think of us, but we have players who can hurt teams.”

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