Congo-Kinshasa/Morocco: Leopards Seek Return to Former Glory At Afcon

Although Morocco were on the front foot for much of the match and had the lion’s share of chances, a goal 10 minutes after halftime from Junior Kabananga won DR Congo the match.
15 January 2017

DR Congo will be keen to show that their improvement over the last few years has been no fluke as they start their 2017 African Nations Cup Group C campaign with a mouth-watering tie against North African side Morocco at the Stade d'Oyem on Monday (19h00 GMT).

The Congolese have recently risen into the top 50 in FIFA World rankings under coach Florent Ibengé and qualified for the finals with five wins out of six matched played.

They are looking to build on their third-place finish two years ago as the country seeks to return to their former glory in the 1960s and 70s.

They were dealt a pre-tournament blow with a long-term injury to winger Yannick Bolasie, but Ibenge says the team has pulled together and are ready to fight for one another.

"We're going to war," he told reporters. "We promise to work hard and give the best of ourselves to get the best results. We know all teams want to beat us, it's for us to raise the level and work hard."

In the absence of Bolasie they will rely more heavily on the goals of Hull City striker Dieumerci Mbokani, but have other match-winners such as Neeskens Kebano and Cédric Bakambu.

Morocco are led by coach Herve Renard, who has already won the Nations Cup twice with Zambia (2012) and Cote d'Ivoire (2015).

He has set his sights on the quarterfinals, but could well repeat his feat in taking the Zambians from being outsiders to title-winners in stunning fashion.

"We would like to do it, but it is easier said than done," Renard told reporters.

"When we came into the tournament with Cote d'Ivoire [in 2015] we were not in sparkling form so that is what makes me think everything is possible in a competition like the African Cup. The hardest part will be this first round with Cote d'Ivoire and DR Congo, two massive teams, as well as Togo," Renard said.

"I put pressure on myself because I am not afraid to say that not reaching the quarterfinals would be a failure. I didn't take the job to not go beyond the group stage, even though we are in a very difficult section.

"Morocco have not done anything in a major competition for 15 years now. That is a long time and there is a lot of expectation."

Renard adds not too much should be read into his past exploits as this is a new team and a new competition.

"The fact that I have had a lot of success in recent years also makes people think that alone can make the difference. But that doesn't matter, what matters is the spirit of the team and the way we go into our matches.

"The biggest problem for Morocco coming into this competition is to say to ourselves that we are capable of doing something and to go out and do it. We need to have confidence in ourselves, not fear anyone."

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