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.
DR Congo have been ranked as high as 51 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.
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.
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. From 1971 to 1997 the country, and therefore the team, was known as Zaire. Their first game as Zaire was played in Cameroon against Sudan. Sudan won this game 3–0. Six years later Zaire won the 1974 African Cup of Nations in Egypt. The team 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 Mulamba Ndaye was top scorer with nine goals, wehich 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. At the 1974 FIFA World Cup Zaire did not manage to score any goals and lost all of its games. Their 9–0 defeat against Yugoslavia still remains a World Cup record. Facing a free-kick 25 yards out during the 1974 World Cup finals match against Brazil, 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, though many commentators held it to be an example of African football's "naïvety and indiscipline". 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.
After winning the 1974 African Cup of Nations and participating in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the team did not get past the first round of the 1976 African Cup of Nations not recording a win in the group stages. Morocco went on to win the tournament. From 1978 to 1986, the country did not qualify for any other African Cup of Nations, while withdrawing from qualification for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. In the 1988 African Cup of Nations Zaire finished last in their group despite having 2 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, their name changed to DR Congo. DR Congo played their first game on the 8 June 1997 in Brazzaville which ended in a 1–0 victory for them. At the 1998 African Cup of Nations, DR Congo, led by Louis Watunda Iyolo took third place, beating hosts Burkina Faso 4–1 on penalties.
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 they were eliminated by 3 straight defeats in the group stages. And then in 2006, led by Claude Le Roy, having finished second in the group behind Cameroon, 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. On the penultimate day DR Congo led the group, but drew 1–1 with Libya and Namibia beat Ethiopia 3–2. This sent Namibia through to the Finals, and DR Congo finished in 2nd place. 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, beating Ghana in the final. 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 squad for 2014 World Cup Qualification match against Libya on June 7, 2013 and Cameroon on June 16, 2013 Caps and goals updated as 16 June 2013, following the match against Cameroon.
FIFA World Cup
African Nations Cup
List of coaches