|DR Congo will be looking to add the 2016 COSAFA Cup to their cabinet|
2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) winners the Democratic Republic of Congo have been added as a guest nation to the line-up for the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup to be staged in Namibia from June 11 to 25.
Florent Ibenge’s side will join 12 other nations from the COSAFA region in competing for the coveted title with the holders and hosts, Namibia.
Congolese football has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. TP Mazembe are the holders of the CAF Champions League while in February, DR Congo won the CHAN tournament for locally-based players in Rwanda.
DR Congo also won bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Equatorial Guinea last year.
DR Congo is ranked eighth in Africa in the latest FIFA world rankings and so the Leopards will go into the draw for the COSAFA Castle Cup as the top-ranked side.
“We are delighted to be bringing our national team, the Leopards, to Namibia to participate for the first time in the COSAFA Castle Cup and are proud to take our place in the field for 2016,” Théobald Binamungu, the vice-president of Fédération Congolaise de Football-Association (FECOFA), said.
“We are certain our team will leave a good impression having made great progress in both club and national team competitions over the past year. We have a lot of respect for all the teams in the COSAFA region and we know that to lift this trophy will be a huge challenge for our team. This COSAFA Castle Cup tournament will be another big step forward for us as we build a team that can take us to qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The level of competition will be very high and we will be very serious in our preparation,” Binamungu said.
COSAFA competitions committee chairperson Timothy Shongwe expressed delight at having a team of the quality of DR Congo competing in Namibia.
“DR Congo has shown at both a club and country level that they are among the leading teams on the African continent and so they will bring added quality to the field for the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup,” Shongwe said.
“They will bring an added dimension to the competition and I am sure will thrill fans with the football they are able to produce under coach Florent Ibenge. Whilst we are primarily a regional Southern African body we also are part of Africa and are always happy to include teams from the rest of continent in moving the game forward.”
|Defending COSAFA Castle Cup champions and hosts, Namibia|
Comoros Islands is the only COSAFA member that has declined to compete in the tournament which will start a few days after a crucial round of 2017 AFCON qualifiers in June.
DR Congo will join the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup at the quarterfinal stage along with South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia.
Those six teams will be joined in the quarterfinals by the two winners of the first round groups. The two groups will be contested by Lesotho, Malawi, Angola, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles.
The draw for the tournament will take place on Monday, April 25 and the teams have been seeded based on the April 2016 FIFA rankings.
Zambia and Zimbabwe have each won the COSAFA Castle Cup on four occasions since the competition was first played in 1997. South Africa and Angola have three titles each, while Namibia claimed their first championship win when they defeated Mozambique 2-0 in the final in 2015.