An African team has made it to the quarter-finals of a World Cup three times: 1990 Cameroon, 2002 Senegal and 2010 Ghana. The Democratic Republic of the Congo might have the potential to go further – if not for many of today’s stars with roots in the Central African country choosing to join other national teams. We show a top 11 of DR Congo.
DR Congo’s successes on the big football stage have so far been modest. At the only World Cup participation so far in 1974 – still under the name Zaire – the Central African country suffered the heaviest defeat in history with a 0:9 against Yugoslavia.
Since then, “Les Léopards” have regularly failed to qualify for the finals, and this year the team led by Marseille defender Chancel Mbemba and Olympiacos striker Cédric Bakambu failed in qualifying against Morocco.
The team – without wanting to offend the named person – could have been much better known. Because many of today’s stars, who play for Belgium, Switzerland or world champions France, for example, could have played for the Democratic Republic of the Congo because of their roots. We show a possible top 11.
GOAL: STEVE MANDANDA (Rennes)
- GOAL: STEVE MANDANDA (Rennes)
- DEFENSE: NORDI MUKIELE (PSG)
- PRESNEL KIMPEMBE (PSG)
- AXEL DISASI (AS Monaco)
- PIERRE KALULU (AC Milan)
- MIDFELD: YOURI TIELEMANS (Leicester City)
- TANGUY NDOMBELE (SSC Napoli)
- DENIS ZAKARIA (Chelsea)
- ATTACK: RANDAL KOLO MUANI (Eintracht Frankfurt)
- ROMELU LUKAKU (Inter Milan)
- CHRISTOPHER NKUNKU (RB Leipzig)
- COACH: VINCENT KOMPANY (Burnley FC)
- BENCH: KEVIN MBABU (Fulham FC)
- RIDLE BAKU (VfL Wolfsburg)
- DEDRYCK BOYATA (Club Brugge)
- DODI LUKEBAKIO (Hertha BSC)
- MICHY BATSHUAYI (Fenerbahçe)
- Top 11 of DR Congo
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The keeper was born in the capital, Kinshasa, but spent his youth in Le Havre and started his goalkeeping career there. Mandanda has won 34 international matches for the French national team and is number three at the tournament in Qatar behind Hugo Lloris and Alphonse Areola.
DEFENSE: NORDI MUKIELE (PSG)
The ex-Leipziger could also have played for his parents’ country, but has played through every junior national team in France since the U18s. The right-back made his debut for the Équipe tricolore in September 2021.
PRESNEL KIMPEMBE (PSG)
The Paris Saint-Germain centre-back would have been part of France’s World Cup squad but had to sit out due to injury. He has already played 28 international matches for the Équipe tricolore. In the Under-21s, Kimpembe even played for DR Congo, his father’s home country.
AXEL DISASI (AS Monaco)
The central defender is the replacement in France’s World Cup squad after Kimpembe’s injury. Disasi has not yet played for France but could have played for DR Congo. His father is from the Central African country.
PIERRE KALULU (AC Milan)
Kalulu is actually at home in central defence, but can also defend on the outside. He is a seed at Milan and is on the verge of joining the French national team, for which he has already played eleven U21 internationals.
MIDFELD: YOURI TIELEMANS (Leicester City)
Tieleman’s mother is from Congo DR but the central midfielder grew up in Belgium. Tielemans has already played 55 international matches for the Red Devils, and he is also at the World Cup in Qatar.
TANGUY NDOMBELE (SSC Napoli)
The midfield star is currently on a master course in Italy with Naples, but he is not part of France’s World Cup squad. Ndombélé has played seven international matches for the Équipe tricolore.
DENIS ZAKARIA (Chelsea)
The ex-Gladbacher had to wait several months for his debut with the Blues. The midfielder is set in the Swiss national team. Born in Geneva, he played 43 international matches for the national team. His father is from the DR Congo.
ATTACK: RANDAL KOLO MUANI (Eintracht Frankfurt)
The newcomer from Nantes has started the season so far at Eintracht Frankfurt. Kolo Muani jumped onto France’s World Cup train after Christopher Nkunku was injured.
ROMELU LUKAKU (Inter Milan)
His father played for the Zaire national team, but Lukaku junior chose Belgium, his country of birth. With 68 goals in 102 games, he is currently the record goalscorer for the Red Devils – more are to be added at the finals in Qatar.
CHRISTOPHER NKUNKU (RB Leipzig)
During training with the French national team, the man from Leipzig tore his lateral ligaments and missed the World Cup in Qatar. Nkunku grew up in France, but his parents are from the DR Congo.
COACH: VINCENT KOMPANY (Burnley FC)
The former defender won 89 caps for his native Belgium but could have played for Congo DR, his father’s homeland. After the end of his playing career, Kompany became a coach, initially at Anderlecht and currently at FC Burnley.
BENCH: KEVIN MBABU (Fulham FC)
The ex-Wolfsburg player has played 22 caps for Switzerland but also has a DR Congo passport.
RIDLE BAKU (VfL Wolfsburg)
His family moved from what was then Zaire to Germany in 1999. Ridle Baku was born in Mainz and also started his football career there. He became European U21 champion with the DFB juniors in 2021 and has already played four international matches for the senior national team.
DEDRYCK BOYATA (Club Brugge)
The ex-Hertha player played 31 international matches for Belgium. His father comes from the DR Congo and was a professional soccer player for Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, among others.
DODI LUKEBAKIO (Hertha BSC)
The winger even earned an international cap for Congo DR in 2016 but then decided to return to his native Belgium. Lukebakio has appeared five times for the Red Devils.
MICHY BATSHUAYI (Fenerbahçe)
The ex-Dortmunder could also have played for his parents’ country. He was even called up to DR Congo’s Africa Cup of Nations squad in 2015, but Batshuayi opted for Belgium. He has scored 26 goals in 48 international matches so far.
Top 11 of DR Congo
And this is what the top 11 could look like in the basic tactical order.