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AFCON 23: DR Congo Leopards roar Into AFCON semifinals with thrilling victory over Guinea

Posted : 03 February 2024

The Leopard of the Democratic Republic of Congo made a remarkable entry into the Semi-Finals of the ongoing African Cup of Nations (AFCON) on Friday night with a 3-1 victory over the Sylli Nationals of Guinea in the 2nd quarterfinal match officiated by Algerian Referee Mustapha Ghorbal.


Guinea drew first blood from the spot following a Mohammed Bayo of La Havre Club infringement, as he was brought down in the box, and he stepped forward to score a neat kick in the 20th minute.


The Leopards of DR Congo, however, came from behind to score three scintillating goals that sent Guinea home. The first was an equalizer, a set-piece goal straight into the net taken by Marseille’s Centre-Back, Chancel Mausulu Mbemba, in the 27th minute. Brentford of England striker, Yoanne Wissa, scored a penalty in the 65th minute for the second goal to DRC, and then the icing on the cake, a stunning free kick at the periphery of the box on the left flank that caught the Guinean Goalkeeper napping.


DRC joins Nigeria in marching into the semifinal, as Nigeria earlier in the day dismissed the stubborn Antelopes of Angola by a lone goal. DRC awaits the winner of the Mali versus Ivory Coast quarterfinal scheduled for tomorrow in the semifinal on Wednesday, 7th February at 9 pm.


The DR Congo and Guinea have had a few meetings. In 2004, in an AFCON match, Guinea beat Congo 2-1 with goals from Titi Camara and Pascal Feindoune; in a CHAN match on 3rd February 2016, they played to a 1-1 draw; DR Congo won the World Cup qualifier played at Conakry on 14th November 2016, and in the second leg played away in Congo, DRC won on 12th November 2017.


Gabonese Referee Pierre Atcho is one of the few Refs already sent home by CAF. Recall that it was the same Pierre who officiated the Senegal versus Cote D’Ivoire match where he failed to sternly give Sadio Mane a straight red card for stamping on the shin of an opponent. Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi got a red card in Egypt 21 for the same offense.


DR Congo Leopards played to a 1-1 draw with Zambia; played another 1-1 draw with Morocco, and drew goalless with Tanzania in the group stages before subduing the mighty Pharaohs of Egypt via penalties 8-7 after a 1-1 draw at full time in the Round of 16.


The Sylli Nationals of Guinea drew 1-1 with Cameroon; defeated Gambia by a lone goal; but bowed to Senegal 0-2 in the group C stage before knocking out Equatorial Guinea 1-0 with a late goal scored in the 90+8th minute by Mohammed Bayo. The highest goal scorer in the tournament as of the Round of 16, Emilio Nsue, missed a penalty in the 69th minute.


Bayo in this match has scored 3 of their 4 goals for Guinea, but their midfield dynamo, Naby Keita, missed the match due to injury. DR Congo striker, Cedric Bakambu, came back after a one-match suspension. The team looks like having a knack for qualifying in the knockout stages via penalty kicks, as in the last match with Egypt and the 3rd place match in 2015.


The Leopards of the Democratic Republic of Congo, ranked 67th in the world and 22nd in Africa, made 19 appearances at AFCON, winning twice in 1968 and 1974. In 1968, at Ethiopia, DRC then Zaire won her first title, beating Ghana by a lone goal; in 1974, at Egypt, there had to be a replay after a 2-2 draw, and the country that was Zaire at that time beat the Kenneth Kaunda boys 2-0; Burkina Faso 98 saw DRC winning Bronze 4-1 on penalties after a 4-4 draw at full time; the last time DRC climbed the podium was for Bronze at Equatorial Guinea in 2015 when the Leopards beat hosts 4-2 on penalties after a goalless full time.


The Sylli National or Elephants, ranked 80th in the world and 15th in Africa, is making her 14th appearance at the AFCON but has only one podium finish in Ethiopia 76 when she played to a 1-1 draw with Morocco, and the Gold was awarded to the North Africans.


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