DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo (DRC) have called all their big superstars for the back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group G qualifier against Zimbabwe early next month, with the returning China-based striker Cedric Bakambu headlining the 36-man provisional squad announced by coach Florent Ibengé.
BY HENRY MHARA
The two nations clash at the Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa on October 13th, before the return fixture at the National Sports Stadium in Harare three days later — two matches that could potentially decide the winner of the group.
Zimbabwe and DRC are tied top of the group standings with four points each after two rounds of matches, although the former enjoys a superior goal difference.
Group G also has Congo Brazzaville and Liberia who have a point each, making the top of the group clash between the Warriors and the Leopards very crucial on determining the two teams that will qualify to the Afcon finals in Cameroon next year from this group.
Aware of the importance of these two clashes, DRC coach Ibengé has recalled into the squad all of his superstars who he surprisingly omitted from the team that was held 1-1 by Liberia last month, with the gaffer attracting himself huge criticism
Bakambu, the most expensive African footballer and one of the top goal scorers in the Chinese Super League, former Chelsea star Gael Kakuta now playing for La liga team Roya Vallecano, Afobe of Stoke City and West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku were some of the big names that did not travel to Liberia, but have all been recalled back into the squad.
Everton’s Yannick Bolasie on loan at Aston Villa had also been excluded from the squad that was announced early this week, but reports from Kinshasa yesterday suggested that the winger has since been included in the provisional squad.
Standard Liege’s Paul Mpoku and Guingamp defender Jordan Ikoko also returns after missing the match against Liberia due to injury.
Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga has also named a strong 23-man squad for the two matches, going largely with the players that he took to Congo Brazzaville last month, where he returned with a point.
The notable inclusion is that of England-born Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa, who is now eligible to play competitive matches for Zimbabwe having acquired a Zimbabwean passport, and the duo of Ovidy Karuru and Marvellous Nakamba, who return from injuries.
Winger Kuda Mahachi has been dropped, while Costa Nhamoinesu and Nyasha Mushekwi have been ignored.
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 Assombalanga (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)