DRC – tournament favourites

2014-01-12 14:00

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are the overwhelming favourites to win all their African Nations Championship Group D matches.

The pretournament darlings open their account against African football minnows Mauritania at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday at 5pm in a double-header that will also see Gabon take on Burundi at 8pm.

DRC won the inaugural tournament in Ivory Coast in 2011 and go into this edition with the intention of repeating their triumph.

The Leopards boast a proud record at the biennial showpiece thanks to the fact that they are the only team to have gone beyond the group stages in the past two editions.

Skipper and veteran goalkeeper Robert Kidiaba is poised to set a new record for the most appearances by a player – the 37-year-old has featured in 10 matches.

Coach Santos Mutubile will guide the Leopards for the third time in a row in the 16-team tournament.

The stage is set for Mutubile’s experienced charges to signal their intent of capturing a second title. They were eliminated 1-0 at the quarterfinal stage of the previous tournament in Sudan by eventual winners Tunisia.

Most players in the squad come from Congolese Premiership giants TP?Mazembe, the 2013 CAF Confederation Cup finalists.

Mauritania will be making their debut after qualifying for a major CAF event for the first time.

They come in as underdogs and will rely heavily on the experience of veteran French coach Patrice Neveu.

He said his team is in South Africa to give the players some exposure to world football.

“We shall do our best and struggle to win a game at the tournament,” he said.

“We need to start somewhere, and the African Nations Championship is a good ground for building.”

The team, which is also known as the Mourabitounes, sent shock waves through African football when they eliminated giants Senegal in July last year.

Meanwhile, Gabon are expected to beat Burundi in the other Group D match.

The latter are making their debut at the tournament and appear to be the weakest team in the group.

The country has been affected by years of civil war and will be using football to unite the nation.

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