DRC name strong squad for Warriors

HARARE - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) coach Florent Ibenge has announced a strong roster for the two 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group G qualifiers against Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe and DRC go head-to-head in a top of the table clash in the group with the first encounter set for the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa on the evening of October 13. Kick-off is 7:30pm.

The reverse fixture is slated for the National Sports Stadium in Harare on October 16 with kick off set for 7pm.

The Warriors currently lead Group G with four points from two matches while the Leopards are in second place also on four points but have an inferior goal difference.

Whichever team that does well in these two upcoming matches will take control of the group and will be in the driving seat to seal a place at the finals to be held in Cameroon next June-July.

With a lot at stake in these back-to-back encounters, Ibenge has gone for broke by naming a strong 36-man provisional squad to face the Warriors.

The roster is headlined by the speedy and tricky Aston Villa winger Yannick Bolasie, who is returning to the squad after an injury lay off.

Bolasie missed the Leopards’ 1-1 draw away to Liberia last month in which they needed a late equaliser from Elia Meschak to salvage a point.

The 29-year-old winger, who joined Villa last month on a season-long loan from Everton, is working his way back to full fitness and is likely to be a handful for the Warriors if he is selected to start.

West Ham full back Arthur Masuaku is another big name in the squad to face the Warriors.

Masuaku and his Hammers teammates had a torrid start to the 2018-19 English Premier League season after suffering four straight defeats.

However, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have kick-started their season by posting impressive wins over Everton and Manchester United while drawing with Chelsea in their last three matches.

Stoke City forward Benik Afobe is also in Ibenge’s squad and is in line to add to his already four caps for the Leopards.

The London-born striker represented England at youth international level before eventually deciding to represent the DRC as he qualifies through his parents’ heritage.

Afobe, who honed his skills at Arsenal, has so far scored four goals in 10 appearances for Stoke in the Championship.  

Upfront, Afobe is likely to be partnered by the China-based Cedric Bakambu, who was omitted for the Liberia clash despite being in fine form.

Bakambu scored a brace in the Leopards’ 3-1 win over Congo in their opening Group G match last year but was a notable absentee in Liberia.

The former Villarreal forward is currently in fine for his China Super League side Beijing Gouan where he has scored 14 times in 19 matches.  

Former Chelsea protégée, Gael Kakuta is also in the DRC squad and is set to make his debut in a competitive match for the Leopards.

Kakuta represented France at junior level but finally decided to play for the Leopards and made his debut in a friendly international last year.

The midfielder, who is now on the books of La Liga side Rayo Vallecano was at one time touted to be a future Chelsea star but it did not work out for him at Stamford Bridge.

DRC Squad: Auguy Kalambayi (Sanga Balende), Joël Kiassumbua (Servette FC/ Switzerland), Nathan Mabruki (DCMP), Anthony Mossi (Chiasso/ Switzerland), Matampi Vumy (Al Ansar Club Medina/ Saudi Arabia), Jordan Botaka (Sint Truiden/ Belgium), Nelson Munganga Omba (Vclub), Glody Ngonda Muzinga (Vclub), Djuma Shani (Vclub), Fabrice Ngoma Lwamba (Vclub), Makusu Mundele (Vclub), Yannick Bangala Litombo (Vclub), Djos Issama Mpeko (TP Mazembe), Arsene Zola (TP Mazembe), Glody Likondja (TP Mazembe), Mika Michee (TP Mazembe), Kevin Mondeko (TP Mazembe), Ben Malango (TP Mazembe), Elia Meschak (TP Mazembe), Paul-Jose Mpoku (Standard Liege/ Belgium), Christian Luyindama (Standard Liege/ Belgium), Firmin Mubele (Toulouse/ France), Cedric Bakambu (Beijing Gouan/ China), Britt Assombalonga (Middelsborough/ England), Benik Afobe (Stoke city/ England), Bobo Ungenda (Primeiro de Agosto/ Angola), Jonathan Bolingi (Antwerp/ Belgium), Junior Kabananga (Astana/ Kazakhstan), Chadrac Akolo (Stuttgart/ Germany), Wilfried Moke (Konyaspor/ Turkey), Jacques Maghoma (Birmingham City/ England), Chikito Lema Mabidi (Raja Casablanca/ Morocco), Gael Kakuta (Rayo Vallecano/ Spain), Jordan Ikoko (Guigamp/ France), Yannick Bolasie (Aston Villa/ England), Arthur Masuaku (West Ham/ England).