It will be a rivalry renewed between old foes when the Intermediate Lions of Cameroon face the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, January 30 at the Japoma stadium for a crunch quarter final game of the Africa Nations Championship.
Playing on home soil, the Intermediate Lions have set themselves a target of winning the competition for the first time.
After sailing past the group stages, the first hurdle in their quest for the title are two-time winners of the competition, DR Congo who have big ambitions of their own. It was not all easy in the group stage but head coach Martin Ndtoungou Mpile has promised to shuffle his pack and put things in order before facing the DR Congo.
“Burkina Faso presented an excellent team, playing great football. Between playing well and not qualifying I would rather qualify for the next round than play well and be eliminated,” Mpile said after Sunday’s goalless draw against Burkina Faso.
“We had a lot of problems in the first half against the offensives of Burkina Faso. In the second half, we tried to manage the match and ensure the qualification.
“For the quarter-finals, we will prepare the match calmly and in the best conditions to look good.”
Immediately after sealing their qualification last Sunday, the Lions departed the next day for Douala where they are lodged at the Sawa Hotel to prepare for Saturday’s game.
They held their first training session in Douala on Tuesday, January 26 at the Annexe I stadium of the Japoma Sports Complex. They had another training session yesterday morning at the same venue and will hold another today. The team will then have their last training session tomorrow afternoon, but before then, head coach Martin Ndtoungou Mpile and a player will show up for the pre-match press conference at the Japoma Sports Complex.
On the availability of players, the medical team is still sweating on the fitness of defender Serge Andoulou who limped out of Cameroon’s final group game against Burkina Faso last Sunday in Yaounde as the player remains a major doubt for Saturday’s encounter. He could not train with the rest of the squad on Tuesday as he went for medical checks with his situation being regularly monitored.
Team captain Jacques Zoua who has not featured since the first game due to a minor injury trained separately from the squad on Tuesday alongside defenders Etame Ngombe and Junior Ndedi but the trio is expected to be fit for Saturday’s crunch game.
On the other hand, the Leopards returned to their base in Douala on Tuesday after sealing qualification with a 2-1 victory over Niger to eventually win the group.
They have not been at their flamboyant best as has been the case in previous editions especially when they went on to win the trophy.
However, even without being at their best, the team has shown flashes of brilliance and gone on to do the job when it mattered most during the group stages.
The team did not allow the recent COVID outbreak recorded within their ranks to destabilize them as they have now fully turned their attention to Saturday’s crucial match against Cameroon whom they have never beaten in the competition.
““We will prepare for the match against Cameroon like the others. The preparation is the same, we will remain serious and serene. We know that it will not be easy, neither for us, nor for Cameroon,” DR Congo assistant coach, Pamphile Kazembe said.
“We have watched all the three matches Cameroon have played, they’re a very good team that puts physical impact, intensity, in everything they do. We will continue to prepare for the competition, to put everything in place to have a better team possible to overcome Cameroon, ” he added.
They will be out on Saturday not only to book a ticket to the semi finals of the competition but to also gain revenge against a side that has proven to be some sort of their nemesis in the competition.