DR Congo eye second Chan title

DR Congo will be looking to win the Chan title for the second time when they take on Mali in the final on Sunday.

The Democratic Republic of Congo aim to become the first side to lift the African Nations Championship twice when they play Mali in the final in Rwanda on Sunday.

The match brings an intriquing climax to the three-week long tournament organised by the African Football Confederation (CAF) and reserved for players who play their football in national leagues.

The DR Congo won the maiden tournament in the Ivory Coast in 2009 when they defeated Ghana 2-0 in the final, and Florent Ibenge’s side has fought hard to get back to the final after being knocked out in the quarters in the last two tournaments in Sudan (2011) and in South Africa in 2014. They needed extra-time goals to overcome hosts Rwanda in the last eight and dumped out hard-fighting Guinea 5-4 on penalties in the semis.

Goalkeeper Ley Matampi, who plays for one of the DR Congo’s most successful clubs, DR Motema Pembe was the star of the two matches. He saved two penalties against Guinea, earning the man of the match accolade but played down his own contribution, saying the side’s success was a collectively responsibility.

“DR Congo are not the favourites yet,” said Matampi. “We shall only be favourites after taking the trophy when the final game ends against Mali.”

Mali go into the final as the only team not to lose a game in the 16-team championship. The Eagles have played with a gritty determination, twice coming from behind to upset hot favourites, Tunisia and the African champions, Ivory Coast in the quarter and semi-finals respectively. The young Mali team, led by their under-17 skipper Abdoul Dante are playing in their first-ever African football final, in three CHAN appearances.

The hard-working side will be without inspirational midfielder Sekou Diarra, who is suspended for the match.
Likewise, defender Padou Boumpunda, who scored DR Congo’s winner against Rwanda, is also ruled out for the final after picking up a second yellow card against Guinea in the semi-final.

African champions the Ivory Coast, meahwhile, will be aiming to make up for their sem-final flop when they face Guinea in the play-off.

It will be the first time that the Ivorian Elephants play at this stage of the tournament.

“Nobody expected us to reach this level but we have done well,” coach Michel Dussuyer told reporters after the dramatic loss to Mali.

“We have to build on this and see what the future holds for us.”

The final and third place matches will be played at the Amahoro national stadium in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.