24 January 2017

Congo-Kinshasa/Togo: DR Congo Powers Through as Togo Blames the Pitch

The Democratic Republic of Congo's excellent performances in the African Nations Cup finals have opened the question of whether they can go all the way in this year's tournament and win what would be the first title for the country since 1974.

The Congolese breezed past Togo in their final Group C clash on Tuesday to top the pool and set up a potential quarterfinal with either Ghana or Egypt on Sunday.

Those two sides battle it out on Wednesday for the top spot in Group D with Ghana needing just a point to claim it, and DR Congo to face the runner-up.

The exciting Junior Kabananga scored his third goal of the tournament to give DR Congo the half-time lead against Togo and they added two more through Ndombe Mubele and Paul-Jose Mpoku, while Kodjo Laba pulled one back for Togo.

Kabananga has now scored in all three Group C games, his latest goal coming as he ran on to a superb defence-splitting pass from Newcastle United's Chancel Mbemba just before the half hour.

It was another powerful performance from the Congolese, who earlier recorded a win over Morocco (1-0) and a draw with Cote d'Ivoire (2-2).

"Congratulations to the players," coach Florent Ibenge said. "The strength of this team is the solidarity and the experience gained since the last edition [when DR Congo finished third in 2015]. After that, we won the African Nations Championship too.

"We went toe-to-toe with Togo and always played with the intention to attack. It's now the quarterfinals, knockout games, and we will have to rest to approach the next match with desire."

Togo were always up against it in the pool but after a solid performance in a 0-0 draw with Cote d'Ivoire, suffered successive 3-1 defeats that showed up all their frailties.

Talismanic striker Emmanuel Adebayor could have played his last game for the side, but was not immediately ready to throw in the towel.

"I am going now to think about whether I continue but I feel like I'm the captain of the boat and I'm not sure whether I should climb out yet," he said.

Togo coach Claude Le Roy again blamed the Port Gentil pitch for the defeat, first because of an injury to key man Baba Tchagouni, and then the bounce of the ball that prevented Adebayor from equalising to make the score 2-2 and potentially get the west Africans back into the game.

He said that the incident which saw goalkeeper Kossi Agassa's house in Togo vandalised by angry fans following the 3-1 loss to Morocco had also affected all the players and led to the 38-year-old, who has served his country for 19 years, to opt out of playing against DR Congo.

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