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Thursday, September 21, 2023

DR Congo call in 29 players for home-and-away AFCON qualifying matches against Mauritania

Cédric Bakambu is back in the DR Congo squad after national team head coach Sébastien Desabre announced his final 29-player list for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches against Mauritania later this month. Desabre’s squad has plenty of attacking quality for the crucial matches against the West African nation with the first match taking place at the Stade TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi before the team travels to the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott for the return match four days later. The Leopards are in last place in Group I with zero points from two matches and have plenty of ground to make up.

Bakambu returns after publicly criticizing Congolese footballing body FECOFA for poor preparations following DR Congo’s elimination from 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying at the hands of Morocco in the playoff stage. The Olympiacos forward’s presence was missed in the opening two matches but now with Bakambu, Jackson Muleka, Gaël Kakuta, Yoane Wissa and the promising Silas Katompa involved there is plenty of firepower for Desabre to pick from. Meschack Elia, Thèo Bongonda, William Balikwisha and in-form Young Africans striker Fiston Mayele are other names who can help the Leopards find goals.

Chancel Mbemba will arrive from Olympique Marseille to lead the defense after not being involved in the team’s opening two qualifying matches, a home defeat to Gabon and a defeat away from home against Sudan. Left back Arthur Masuaku is in the squad as well after earning regular playing time with Turkish club Beşiktaş where Muleka also plays. Joël Kiassumbua looks likely to retain his place in the eleven as the Leopards goalkeeper.

In general the Leopards squad appears to be impressive after numerous players missed out on the first two qualifying matches and Desabre’s eleven should have at least five or six changes from the team that lost to Sudan under predecessor Héctor Cúper. The full list is below.