DR Congo head coach Florent Ibenge has emphasised that he will stick to his side’s style of play when they face a star-studded Ghana outfit at Stade d’Oyem in their quarterfinal tie on Sunday.
The Leopards encompass the ultimate attacking football while playing solidly in defense and have shown this against the reigning champions Ivory Coast, Morocco and Togo in group C.
Ibenge’s side opened their campaign with a convincing 1-0 win over Morocco under the auspices of the experienced Herve Renard before holding the Elephants to a 2-2 draw.
DR Congo’s 3-1 victory over their former coach Claude Le Roy came as icing on the cake as they progressed to the last eight, where serious business commences against the Black Stars on Sunday.
“We intend to stick to our style. We want to enforce our defence like we did against Morocco and move forward whenever we can,” Ibenge explained.
“We have 13 new players so it is really a new team. It is a new experience to the last tournament. We are growing.”
The Leopards went to the 2015 Afcon as the third-best second-placed team, clearly least favoured to make an impact, but they worked their way into third position at the end of the tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Ibenge is eyeing a better placing this time round.
Ibenge has thus made some changes to his squad, most notably introducing TP Mazembe goalkeeper Ley Matampi as first choice ahead of the seasoned Robert Kidiaba, as well as dropping central defender Joel Kimwaki.
Youngsters like Junior Kabananga, who is the leading goal scorer at the Afcon with three goals in three games so far, as well as Paul Jose Mpoku, Jonathan Bolingi, Remi Mulumba and Firmin Ndombe Mubele have brought a new dimension to the team.
Senior players like Dieumerci Mbokani, Gabriel Zakuani, Issama Mpeko and captain Youssouf Mulumbu have already shown their experience at the tournament so far, and the combination has become better and better as the tournament has progressed.
It is this kind of experience that Ibenge wants to build on to make sure that he overcomes the Black Stars, who are a seasoned team at the continental tournament.
Ghana has made it among the top four nations at the Afcon since 2008, when they finished third. In 2010 and 2015 they were finalists, and they finished third in 2012 and 2013.