AFCON 2023 – DR Congo: Group, calendar, opponents, and squad

Under the guidance of Sébastien Desabre, DR Congo will make their return to the AFCON 2023. In this article, we'll share all the information you need to know about the Leopards ahead of the tournament.

AFCON 2023: DR Congo's schedule

The DR Congo team's opponents in Group F are Morocco, Zambia and Tanzania. The Leopards will play their first two group matches in San-Pédro, then the third in Korhogo.

  • January 17, 9 pm: DR Congo vs Zambia, Stade Laurent Pokou
  • January 21, 3 pm: Morocco vs DR Congo, Stade Laurent Pokou
  • January 23, 9 pm: Tanzania vs DR Congo, Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium

How did the DR Congo team qualify for AFCON 2023?

In Group I of qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, DR Congo finished first with 12 points ahead of Mauritania (10), Gabon (7) and Sudan (6). Everything started badly with two defeats in their first two games, but Sébastien Desabre's troops were able to recover by stringing together four consecutive victories to qualify for AFCON, and in style.

  • Day 1: DR Congo (0-1) Gabon
  • Day 2: Sudan (2-1) DR Congo
  • Day 3: DR Congo (3-0) Mauritania
  • Day 4: Mauritania (0-3) DR Congo
  • Day 5: Gabon (0-2) DR Congo
  • Day 6: DR Congo (2-0) Sudan

The last ten matches of the DRC team

  • Sudan (1-0) DR Congo – 2026 World Cup Qualifiers
  • DR Congo (2-0) Mauritania – 2026 World Cup Qualifiers
  • Angola (0-0) DR Congo – Friendly
  • New Zealand (0-0) DR Congo – Friendly
  • South Africa (0-0) DR Congo – Friendly
  • DR Congo (2-0) Sudan – AFCON 2023 Qualifiers
  • Gabon (0-2) DR Congo – AFCON 2023 Qualifiers
  • DR Congo (1-0) Uganda – Friendly
  • Mauritania (0-3 [awarded]) DR Congo – AFCON 2023 qualifiers
  • DR Congo (3-1) Mauritania – AFCON 2023 Qualifiers

DR Congo: the hour of glory?

DR Congo have not won the AFCON since… 1974! Another era, another football. Still, it has been half a century since the Leopards last lifted the most prestigious African trophy; and needless to say, the expectation is immense in the country. Even if they are not among the favourites of this new edition, the Congolese take on the costume of outsiders capable of creating an upset.

Reaching the round of 16 in Ivory Coast would already be a notable first step for Chancel Mbemba's gang, the captain of this Congolese side that were absent from the last edition of the AFCON, as well as the World Cup in Qatar (loss in the play-offs). While Morocco seems above the rest in this group, it will be necessary for DR Congo to do well in matches against neighbours Zambia and Tanzania if they're to reach the next stage.

The coach of the DR Congo team: Sébastien Desabre

In the first week of August 2022, Sébastien Desabre decided to terminate his lease with Chamois Niortais (Ligue 2, France) to take charge of the Congolese national team. Since his appointment, the French tactician has totaled 5 victories with 3 defeats and 2 draws. For the moment, he has succeeded in his main mission, namely ensuring the qualification of the Leopards for the AFCON.

As he confided in a press conference last month, shortly before the match against Mauritania (2-0), which counted for the qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, the 47-year-old technician is aware of the expectations of the Congolese for this campaign.

“Of course you have pressure when you are Congo coach. (…) There are a lot of expectations of results. We focus on having a good organisation of the game, on having a game plan that allows us to be good on the pitch, and to be able to win matches. Afterwards, we do everything we have in our power and with our heart and with our investment, you have seen it” he declared, without forgetting to mention the quality of his staff. “I am not alone because I have a staff around me, who are also quality. So, we try to put the players in the best position to achieve results.”

1000020103
Aldo Kalulu of DR Congo during the 2023 International Friendly match between South Africa and DR Congo at the Orlando Stadium, Soweto on the 12 September 2023 – Photo by Icon sport

Player to watch: Fiston Mayele

A true centrepiece within the Tanzanian giants Young Africans, with whom he finished top scorer in the 2023 Confederation Cup with 7 goals (they reached the final), Fiston Mayele now plays for the Pyramids club in Egypt. In the land of the Pharaohs, the tall 29-year-old striker (1.85 m) continues to express his physical qualities and in the area of finishing. Although he never played in Europe, that did not prevent Sébastien Desabre from giving him a chance with the national team, despite his advanced age to make his international debut (28 years old at the time).

In March this year, the native of Mbuji-Mayi therefore started with the Leopards against Mauritania (3-1). However, his first goal came in June, as he scored the last goal in Congo's 2-0 victory over Gabon in the AFCON qualifiers. The 29-year-old has now scored twice in eight appearances for his country. Interestingly, until a few years ago, Maybe played in the Congolese second division (until 2017-2018) with AS Simba.

DR Congo's AFCON 2023 provisional squad

Goalkeepers:

Lionel M'pasi – Rodez, France
Dimitry Bertaud – Montpellier, France
Baggio Siadi – TP Mazembe, DR Congo

Defenders:

Gedeon Kalulu – Lorient, France
Joris Kayembe – Genk, Belgium
Vital Nsimba – Bordeaux, France
Chancel Mbemba – Marseille, France
Henoc Baka – Simba, Tanzania
Rocky Bushiri – Hibernian, Scotland
Brian Bayeye – Ascoli, Italy
Serge Mukoko – TP Mazembe, DR Congo

Midfielders:

Aaron Tshibola – Hatta, Emirates
Charles Pickel – Cremonese, Italy
Edo Kayembe – Watford, England
Gael Kakuta – Amiens, France
Theo Bongonda – Spartak Moscow, Russia
Samuel Moutoussamy – Nantes, France
Grady Diangana – West Bromwich Albion, England

Strikers:

Yoane Wissa – Brentford, England
Silas Mvupa – Stuttgart, Germany
Meschack Elia – Young Boys, Switzerland
Makabi Lilepo – Valenciennes, France
Cedric Bakambu – Galatasaray, Turkey
Fiston Mayele – Pyramids, Egypt
Jackson Muleka – Besiktas, Turkey

Avatar photo
Kelechi Udoka

Kelechi is an avid Enyimba fan who enjoys writing about the beautiful game. He has written thousands of articles for a few publications over the years.