Congo vs DR Congo | Saturday 31 January | Bata | 18:00
It’s been a dour Africa Cup of Nations 2015 so far with twelve of the first twenty matches ending in draws. We reach the quarter-final stage with none of the teams showing class or at least proving to be a step ahead of their counterparts. The first quarter-final has produced a Congo derby. Congo’s Brazzaville and Kinshasa in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo are the closest capital cities in the world, so there is a huge rivalry between these two nations with each of them claiming to be the better. However, that label does belong to DRC, formerly known as Zaire. Congo are the Group A winners, accumulating seven points, but managed only four goals while conceding two. Their neighbours, DR Congo, were much worse and will be thanking the gods for their fortuitous progression from the group stages having failed to win a match.
To Win (90mins)
DR Congo 17/10
DR Congo 17/20
Congo topped Group A with seven points from an unbeaten three-match run, winning twice. It is the first time since 1992 that Congo have managed to progress to the last eight of the tournament. French coach Claude Le Roy enhanced a remarkable record as Congo defeated Burkina Faso 2-1 on Sunday to reach the quarter-finals. It was the seventh time in eight attempts with five different countries that the 66-year-old has reached the knockout stage of the African football showcase. The impressive Thievy Bifouma scored on 51 minutes, Aristide Bance levelled four minutes from time and Fabrice Ondama snatched the 88th-minute winner to send Burkina Faso home. Congo started the tournament cautiously, drawing with the hosts but then surprised Gabon in their second match, winning 1-0. Leading the Congolese charge is Almeria striker Bifouma, who has the potential to become a real star of this event. Born in France and capped at junior level for the Europeans, he only won the right to switch to Congo last year but was immediately brought into the side by Le Roy. He made an immediate impact too, netting in Congo's historic 3-2 victory against Nigeria in their opening Nations Cup qualification game and has since bagged five goals in eleven appearances for the side, including two in this year’s showpiece. The rise of the 22-year-old should come as no real surprise as he already has the experience of playing in the Spanish La Liga and English Premier League (West Brom).
Group B at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations ended in a photo finish on Tuesday evening after both games on the final match day finished in draws. Tunisia and DR Congo drew 1-1 whilst Zambia held Cape Verde 0-0. The result however, meant that the DRC edged Cape Verde to the second qualifying spot available from the group on more goals scored after both sides finished on three points each and equal goal difference with three draws apiece. Players from Tunisia and the DRC embraced each other in celebration as both booked their passage into the quarter-finals. It sparked contrasting celebrations, the coaches and players in Bata celebrating in unison while there were tears in Ebebiyin for Zambia and Cape Verde. DR Congo, tournament winners in 1968 and 1974, looked bad but managed to draw level against the run of play in the 65th minute through substitute Jeremy Bokila. It was Bokila's two goals that had helped seal his side's route to the tournament against Ivory Coast and, just five minutes after coming on, he once again provided a telling difference. Crystal Palace’s Yannick Bolasie was the inspiration in DRC’s 1-1 draw with Zambia in their AFCON opener and the highly rated French born forward will be looking for similar results after being subdued by opponents since.
VERDICT: Congo 18/10
While DR Congo have been the better of the two for some years now, coach Claude Le Roy looks to have finally changed that with his current Congo team. DR Congo lie just two places above Congo’s fifteenth position in the CAF rankings while Congo have also been more impressive in the group stages of the AFCON. With three draws from three matches, DR Congo look solid at the back but a bunch of individuals going forward. Congo look more like a team and also show more desire to fight for their colours. It’s unlikely that the DRC will record yet another draw so I’m going with Congo to get the victory after 90 minutes.