DR Congo Can Go And Beat Hosts In Third Place Play-Off
Africa Cup of Nations hosts Equatorial Guinea face DR Congo in a third/fourth place playoff on Saturday which is likely to be scant consolation for both teams who had greater ambitions as the competition progressed.
The Democratic Republic of Congo had already surpassed expectations by reaching the semi-final stages of the tournament before being beaten by favourites Ivory Coast 3-1 on Wednesday night. Dieumerci Mbokani had briefly given his side hope of reaching the final when he equalised in the first half but the Elephants proved far too strong overall and were more than deserving of their victory.
In truth Florent Ibenge’s side had been quite fortunate to get out of their group on goals scored although they did put in a good performance to beat near neighbours Congo in the quarter-finals when they came from two goals down with only a half an hour to play to win 4-2 – their only win in their last six internationals.
Dynamo Kiev forward Mbokani has scored three times in the tournament to lead their goalscoring charts, with all of his goals coming in the knockout stages.
The hosts were knocked out by Ghana on Thursday following a 3-0 defeat which was delayed because of serious crowd trouble that led to questions as to whether the game would even be completed at one point. It was a hugely disappointing end to what had been a fine tournament up to that point for Equatorial Guinea, who reached the last four after going through the group stages undefeated to qualify behind Congo as runners-up in Group A and then went on to earn a memorable 2-1 victory over Tunisia in the quarter finals after extra-time. Their semi-final defeat was the first loss they’ve suffered in the last seven games.
The wonderfully-named Javier Angel Balboa is his nation’s top scorer in the tournament with three goals, including a brace against Tunisia.
Mbokani is expected to be fit enough to stake his claim for the tournament’s golden boot, while defender Gabriel Zakuani should also be fine to feature from the start. Young striker Firmin Mubele may earn a start after being used sparingly to this point.
Coach Esteban Becker has no injury worries to deal with for Equatorial Guinea, although he may shift from the 4-4-2 formation with which he’s tuck so far, with Raul Fabiani and Iban Salvador likely to play from the start alongside Balboa up front.
Head to Head
Both sides earned home wins in their only officially recorded encounters during qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013. However, DR Congo’s 4-0 win in the first leg of a two-pronged qualifier meant they had all but reached the finals before they faced the away leg just over a month later, when the hosts were 2-1 winners. Mbokani scored twice in that 4-0 win for DR Congo.
With a clearly hostile crowd behind, or distracting the hosts, many will fancy them to come away what’s been a big credit to them on the pitch with a win to claim third place but their opponents look a more potent outfit to me with Mbokani and Crystal Palace’s Yannick Bolasie in their ranks so the 6/4 on a DR Congo win looks the bet here.
Both teams seemed jaded in their semi-final losses to boot and have begun leaking goals too so take over 2.5 goals to be scored inside the 90 minutes too.