The legendary Robert Kidiaba, famed for his ‘bum shuffle’ celebration has retired, leaving a problem for DRC in between the sticks. Kidiaba was one of the top goalkeepers in the 2015 African Nations cup and will be missed. The Leopards will instead have to rely on Ley Matampi who plays his club football in Africa. This could definitely be a vulnerable area for Florent Ibenge’s men. At the back, Marcel Tisserand should be one of their better performers and also very versatile. Newcastle United’s Chancel Mbemba is one of the more recognisable names, but he tends to line up in defensive midfield for his country. Alongside him in the middle will be Youssouf Mulumbu, usually a dependable player who has plenty of international experience.
DRC have been dealt a huge blow by the long term injury of Yannick Bolasie. He would’ve been a key man for them in this tournament but instead it’ll be up to the likes of Cedric Bakambu & Dieumerci Mbokani to deliver the goods in the final third of the field. The former only opted to start playing for the nation last year and has scored 3 goals in 9 games. Mbokani meanwhile, averages a goal every other game for his nation which is an excellent return. He's been horrible form for Hull City this season but maybe this tournament might bring out the best in him. One other player to mention is winger Ndombe Mubele who can be useful on a good day. Overall, though this isn’t a team with great attacking options and the loss of Bolasie will hit them hard.
Draw & outlook
DRC surprised everyone by finishing third in the 2015 edition. I’m sure they’ll be a hard working and quite a close-knit squad which is definitely a positive. The Leopards have been given a manageable draw. Defending champions Ivory Coast might prove too strong but injury ravaged Morocco could be vulnerable. In 2015, DRC drew all three group games which was enough to secure a quarter final spot and they’ll probably make themselves as difficult to beat as possible. But with the loss of a long standing keeper and question marks at the back this’ll be easier said than done. DRC are nevertheless the sort of side with potential to surprise. They might just have enough to squeeze second spot in the group and would then become awkward opposition in the knockout rounds. Facing top level opposition though, I have to think DRC will fall short.
Group prediction: 2nd
Overall prediction: Quarter final elimination