Formerly Zaire, the Leopards have a history steeped in success, in particular the late 1960’s and 1970’s. Twice Africa Cup of Nations Champions, the Democratic Republic also had a renaissance of sorts throughout the 90’s after a bleak period in the late 70’s and throughout the 1980’s. They are not seen as a particular favourite this time around in Equatorial Guinea having exited at the group stage last year and failing to qualify for the previous three Championships.
Drawn in Group B alongside Tunisia, Cape Verde and Zambia, it could have been a lot worse for DR Congo but they will still need three outstanding performances to make the Quarter-Final stages for the first time since Egypt 2006. On that occasion they were torn apart 4-1 by the host nation but had performed well spearheaded by star man Lomana LuaLua, cousin of current Congolese Star Yannick Bolasie of Crystal Palace who the Leopards will look to, to influence results in this tournament.
Presented with the unenviable task of qualifying for AFCoN 2015 from a group consisting of Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, DR Congo scraped through as the best third placed team, ahead of such heavyweights as Nigeria and Egypt, the highlight of which, a dramatic 4-3 win over the Ivorians in Abidjan. Currently coached by Florest Ibenge, recently appointed as recently as November last year and captained by West Bromwich Albion’s Youssuf Mulumbu, first up the Leopards will face a very strong Zambia team in Ebebiyin on January 18th, followed by Cape Verde 4 days later where they will be looking to take all 3 points before the final group game against Tunisia on the 26th.
I feel this will come down to the wire in a very hard-fought group with very little separating all four sides. I even see goal difference playing it’s part in the qualification process. With Bolasie in eye-catching form in the English Premiership, partnered by Dynamo Kiev’s Dieumerci Mbokani, the potential for goals is there, but defensively is where questions can be raised of the Congolese. There is a wealth of experience in the squad, but very little in terms of non African league defenders, though youngsters Cedric Mongongu and Chancel Mangulu of France’s Evian and Belgium’s Anderlecht, respectively have made the squad and will be knocking on the door for selection. Overall I see Congo going through by the finest of margins but with a Quarter-Final exit, either way they will be an exciting prospect to watch during the tournament.