DR Congo national football team

DR Congo
Nickname(s) The Leopards
Association Fédération Congolaise de Football-Association (FECOFA)
Confederation CAF (Africa)
Sub-confederation UNIFFAC
(Central Africa)
Head coach Florent Ibengé
Captain Youssouf Mulumbu
Top scorer Dieumerci Mbokani (18)
Home stadium Stade des Martyrs
First colours
Second colours
FIFA ranking
Current 47 Increase 2 (24 November 2016)
Highest 46 (February 2015)
Lowest 133 (October 2011)
Elo ranking
Current 72 (29 June 2016)
Highest 20 (March 1974)
Lowest 111 (September 2010)
First international
Belgian Congo 3–2 Northern Rhodesia 
(Belgian Congo; 1948)
Biggest win
 DR Congo 10–1 Zambia 
(Kinshasa, Congo DR; 22 November 1969)
Biggest defeat
 Yugoslavia 9–0 Zaire
(Gelsenkirchen, West Germany; 18 June 1974)
World Cup
Appearances 1 (first in 1974)
Best result Round 1, 1974
Africa Cup of Nations
Appearances 15 (first in 1965)
Best result Champions, 1968 and 1974

The Democratic Republic of the Congo national football team (formerly the Zaire national football team) is the national team of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is controlled by the Fédération Congolaise de Football-Association (FECOFA). They are nicknamed the Leopards.[1]

DR Congo have been ranked as high as 46 in the FIFA Rankings. As Zaire they were the first Sub-Saharan African team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup and twice won the Africa Cup of Nations.


Early history

The Fédération Congolaise de Football-Association (FECOFA) was founded in 1919 when the country was not independent. The team played their first game in 1948 as Belgian Congo against Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia. The team recorded a 3–2 victory at home. DR Congo has been FIFA affiliated since 1962 and has been a member of CAF since 1963. The team's first official match was on the 11 April 1963, against Mauritania in the L'Amitié Tournament played in Dakar, Senegal. DR Congo won the match 6–0.[2]

Glory period

The Democratic Republic of the Congo had its first international success at the 1968 African Cup of Nations held in Ethiopia, beating Ghana 1–0 in the final. The team's biggest ever win came on 22 November 1969 when they recorded a 10–1 home victory against Zambia. Although a handful of Congolese players were playing in Europe (particularly Belgium) during these years, foreign-based players were seldom recalled for international duty; a rare exception was Julien Kialunda who represented Zaire (as the country was by then known) at the 1972 African Cup of Nations while playing for Anderlecht.

The second continental title came at the 1974 African Cup of Nations in Egypt. The Leopards recorded a 2–1 victory against Guinea, another 2–1 victory against rivals Congo and a 4–1 victory against Mauritius. These results carried Zaire through to the semi-finals where they beat hosts Egypt 3–2. In the final, Zaire drew with Zambia 2–2. Therefore, the match was replayed two days later, where Zaire won the game 2–0. Zaire player Ndaye Mulamba was top scorer with nine goals, which remains a record for the tournament. After this, the team returned to Zaire on the Presidential plane, lent to them by Mobutu Sese Seko.

Zaire were the first Sub-Saharan African team to participate in a FIFA World Cup, qualifying for the 1974 tournament in place of 1970 participants Morocco, whom they defeated in the decisive qualifier 3-0 in Kinshasa.[3] Such was the desire to foster an identity of Zaire as a global player that Mobutu paid for advertising hoardings at the World Cup to display messages such as ‘Zaire-Peace’ and ‘Go to Zaire’.[4] At the tournament itself, Zaire did not manage to score any goals and lost all of its games, but gave credible performances against Scotland and Brazil. However, their 9–0 loss against Yugoslavia remains one of the worst World Cup defeats. A bizarre moment came in the match versus Brazil; facing a free-kick 25 yards out, defender Mwepu Ilunga, upon hearing the referee blow his whistle, ran out of the Zaire wall and kicked the ball upfield, for which he received a yellow card. This was voted the 17th greatest World Cup moment in a Channel 4 poll,[5] though many commentators held it to be an example of African football's "naïvety and indiscipline".[6] However, Ilunga has claimed that he was quite aware of the rules and was hoping to convince the referee to send him off. The intended red card would have been a protest against his country's authorities, who were alleged to be depriving the players of their earnings.[7]

Crisis period

After winning the 1974 African Cup of Nations and participating in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the team was eliminated in the first round of the 1976 African Cup of Nations after recording a draw and two losses in the group stage. Morocco went on to win the tournament. From 1978 to 1986, the country did not qualify for the African Cup of Nations, while not participating in qualification for the 1978 FIFA World Cup and 1986 FIFA World Cup. In the 1988 African Cup of Nations, Zaire finished last in their group despite having two draws.

Return to success

From 1992 to 1996, Zaire, reached three consecutive African Cup of Nations quarter-finals. In 1992 and 1994 they were beaten by Nigeria, and in 1996 they were beaten by Ghana. In 1997, the country's name changed to DR Congo and the national team was re-branded as the Simbas, a nickname that stuck for the next nine years.[8] DR Congo played their first game on 8 June 1997 in Pointe-Noire which ended in a 1-0 loss to the Republic of the Congo. At the 1998 African Cup of Nations, DR Congo, led by Louis Watunda, surprisingly took third place, beating Cameroon in the quarter-finals and hosts Burkina Faso 4–1 on penalties in their last match after scoring three late goals to tie the encounter 4-4.

At the 2000 African Cup of Nations the team finished 3rd in their group, and in 2002 were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Senegal. Then in 2004, DR Congo were eliminated after 3 straight defeats in the group stages. In 2006, led by Claude Le Roy, having finished second in the group behind Cameroon, the Congolese were eliminated in the quarter-finals by Egypt 4–1.


DR Congo were drawn in group 10 for qualifications for the 2008 African Cup of Nations, along with Libya, Namibia and Ethiopia. Before the last match day the Congolese led the group, but they drew 1–1 with Libya in their final match while Namibia beat Ethiopia 3–2. This sent Namibia through to the Finals, while the Leopards were eliminated. DR Congo also failed to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In 2009, DR Congo won the 2009 African Championship of Nations, a competition reserved to players in domestic leagues, a tournament they would again win in 2016. DR Congo reached the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finals in South Africa but were knocked out in the group stages after drawing all three matches.

The Ibengé era

In the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, DR Congo again drew all three group matches but this time finished 2nd in the group behind Tunisia, and therefore advanced to the quarter-finals to play their rivals Republic of Congo, a match in which the Leopards came from two goals down to win 4–2. However, they were knocked out by the Ivory Coast 3–1 in the semi-finals. They ended up finishing third, beating Equatorial Guinea in penalties, after the third place match finished 0–0 in regulation time.


Current squad

The following players were called up to the squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Guinea on November 13, 2016.[9]

Caps and goals as of 13 November, 2016.[10]

0#0 Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club
1 1GK Ley Matampi (1989-04-18) 18 April 1989 21 0 Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe
23 1GK Joël Kiassumbua (1992-04-06) 6 April 1992 3 0 Switzerland Wohlen
16 1GK Mulopo Kudimbana (1987-01-21) 21 January 1987 8 0 Belgium Royal Antwerp

2 2DF Issama Mpeko (1986-03-03) 3 March 1986 46 1 Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe
22 2DF Chancel Mbemba (1994-08-08) 8 August 1994 29 1 England Newcastle United
14 2DF Gabriel Zakuani (1986-05-31) 31 May 1986 26 0 England Northampton Town
13 2DF Joyce Lomalisa (1993-06-18) 18 June 1993 19 0 Democratic Republic of the Congo V Club
4 2DF Botuli Bompunga (1992-01-30) 30 January 1992 16 3 Democratic Republic of the Congo V Club
5 2DF Marcel Tisserand (1993-01-10) 10 January 1993 4 0 Germany FC Ingolstadt 04
20 2DF Vital N'Simba (1993-07-08) 8 July 1993 1 0 France Bourg Péronnas
3 2DF Fabrice N'Sakala (1990-07-21) 21 July 1990 7 0 Turkey Alanyaspor
19 2DF Nekadio Luyindama (1994-01-08) 8 January 1994 0 0 Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe

11 3MF Yannick Bolasie (1989-05-24) 24 May 1989 31 7 England Everton
10 3MF Neeskens Kebano (1992-03-10) 10 March 1992 13 3 England Fulham
3MF Jacques Maghoma (1987-10-23) 23 October 1987 12 1 England Birmingham City
18 3MF Merveille Bokadi (1992-05-21) 21 May 1992 10 1 Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe
15 3MF Rémi Mulumba (1992-11-02) 2 November 1992 5 0 France Gazélec Ajaccio
7 3MF Youssouf Mulumbu (1987-01-25) 25 January 1987 36 1 England Norwich City

9 4FW Dieumerci Mbokani (1985-11-22) 22 November 1985 37 18 England Hull City
21 4FW Ndombe Mubele (1994-04-17) 17 April 1994 33 7 Qatar Al Ahli SC
12 4FW Jonathan Bolingi (1994-06-30) 30 June 1994 13 6 Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe
4FW Junior Kabananga (1989-04-04) 4 April 1989 11 1 Kazakhstan Astana
6 4FW Jordan Botaka (1993-06-24) 24 June 1993 11 4 England Charlton Athletic
17 4FW Cédric Bakambu (1991-04-11) 11 April 1991 9 3 Spain Villarreal
8 4FW Paul-José M'Poku (1992-04-19) 19 April 1992 6 3 Greece Panathinaikos
4FW Benik Afobe (1993-02-12) 12 February 1993 0 0 England Bournemouth
4FW Britt Assombalonga (1992-12-06) 6 December 1992 0 0 England Nottingham Forest

Recent call-ups

The following players have been called up to the DR Congo squad within the last 12 months.

Pos. Player Date of birth (age) Caps Goals Club Latest call-up
GK Hervé Lomboto (1989-10-27) 27 October 1989 6 0 Republic of the Congo AC Léopards v.  Libya, October 8, 2016
GK Joseph Bulayima 0 0 Democratic Republic of the Congo Lupopo v.  Angola, March 26, 2016
GK Riffi Mandanda (1992-10-11) 11 October 1992 0 0 France Ajaccio v.  Angola, March 26, 2016WTD

DF Christopher Oualembo (1987-01-31) 31 January 1987 13 0 Unattached v.  Kenya, October 4, 2016
DF Yannick Bangala Litombo (1994-04-12) 12 April 1994 17 0 Democratic Republic of the Congo DCMP v.  Madagascar, June 2, 2016
DF Junior Baometu (1994-05-09) 9 May 1994 9 0 Democratic Republic of the Congo Lupopo v.  Madagascar, June 2, 2016
DF Joël Kimwaki (1986-10-14) 14 October 1986 52 3 Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe v.  Angola, March 29, 2016
DF Chris Mavinga (1991-05-26) 26 May 1991 4 0 France Troyes v.  Angola, March 29, 2016

MF Cedrick Mabwati (1992-03-08) 8 March 1992 18 0 United States Columbus Crew v.  Kenya, October 4, 2016
MF André Bukia (1995-03-03) 3 March 1995 1 0 Portugal Boavista v.  Madagascar, June 2, 2016
MF Nelson Munganga (1993-03-27) 27 March 1993 16 2 Democratic Republic of the Congo V Club v.  Angola, March 29, 2016
MF Michaël Nkololo (1992-11-09) 9 November 1992 4 2 France Clermont v.  Angola, March 29, 2016

FW Dodi Lukebakio (1997-09-24) 24 September 1997 1 0 France Toulouse v.  Kenya, October 4, 2016
FW Jeremy Bokila (1988-11-14) 14 November 1988 16 6 Qatar Al Kharaitiyat v.  Kenya, October 4, 2016
FW Arnold Issoko (1992-04-06) 6 April 1992 1 0 Portugal Vitória v.  Madagascar, June 2, 2016
FW Elia Meschak (1996-08-06) 6 August 1996 0 0 Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe v.  Angola, March 29, 2016

INJ Player withdrew from the squad due to an injury.
WTD Withdrew from squad

Competition records

FIFA World Cup

FIFA World Cup record
Year Round Position Pld W D L GF GA
Played as  Zaire
Uruguay 1930 to
England 1966
Did not enter
Mexico 1970Entry not accepted[11]
West Germany 1974Group Stage16th3003014
Argentina 1978Withdrew
Spain 1982Did not qualify
Mexico 1986Banned
Italy 1990Did not qualify
United States 1994
Played as  DR Congo
France 1998 to
Brazil 2014
Did not qualify
Russia 2018To Be Determined
Qatar 2022
Total Group Stage 1/20 3 0 0 3 0 14

African Nations Cup

African Cup of Nations
Titles: 2
Appearances: 15
Year Position Year Position Year Position Year Position
Sudan 1957Did not enterEthiopia 1976Round 1Tunisia 1994Quarter FinalsEquatorial GuineaGabon 2012Did not qualify
Egypt 1959Did not enterGhana 1978Did not enterSouth Africa 1996Quarter FinalsSouth Africa 2013Round 1
Ethiopia 1962Did not enterNigeria 1980Did not qualifyBurkina Faso 1998Third placeEquatorial Guinea 2015Third place
Ghana 1963Did not enterLibya 1982Did not qualifyGhanaNigeria 2000Round 1Gabon 2017To be determined
Tunisia 1965Round 1Ivory Coast 1984WithdrewMali 2002Quarter FinalsCameroon 2019To be determined
Ethiopia 1968ChampionsEgypt 1986Did not qualifyTunisia 2004Round 1Ivory Coast 2021To be determined
Sudan 1970Round 1Morocco 1988Round 1Egypt 2006Quarter FinalsGuinea 2023To be determined
Cameroon 1972Fourth PlaceAlgeria 1990Did not qualifyGhana 2008Did not qualify
Egypt 1974ChampionsSenegal 1992Quarter FinalsAngola 2010 Did not qualify

List of coaches


  1. "BBC SPORT | WORLD CUP | History | 1974: Zaire's show of shame". BBC News. 2002-05-22. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  2. Courtney, Barrie (14 June 2007). "DR Congo (Zaire, Congo-Kinshasa) – List of International Matches". FRSSF. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  3. "Leopards roar to Germany 1974". FIFA.com. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  4. "More than a game? Mobutu, Sport and Zairian Identity, 1965-1974" (PDF). Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  5. "Explore". Channel 4. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  6. "The Joy of Six: Symbolic reducers, including Roy Keane, Norman Whiteside and Benjamin Massing | Football". London: theguardian.com. 23 July 2007. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  7. "BBC Sport – Football – Zaire free-kick farce explained". BBC News. 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  8. "Football Team Nicknames". topendsports.com. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
  9. http://www.leopardsfoot.com/leopards-ibenge-retient-26-joueurs-pour-affronter-la-guinee/
  10. http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/round=276412/match=300367108/index.html
  11. "History of the FIFA World Cup Preliminary Competition (by year)" (PDF). FIFA.com. Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Retrieved 2011-11-16.

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