The Leopards, as the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Team is referred to first success at the Africa Cup of Nations came in 1968, when they beat Ghana 1–0 in the final of the competition held in Ethiopia.
Having also won the 1974 competition and participated in the FIFA World Cup the same year, the team then called Zaire failed to get past the first round of the 1976 continental competition, recording no win at the group stages.
As if that was not bad enough, the Leopard failed to qualify for the Nations Cup from 1978 to 1986. Two years on, the team finished last in their group despite drawing twice.
After learning to put their house in order, the team returned to the competition after four years, reaching the last eight three consecutive times from 1992 to 1996.
Twice they lost to Super Eagles of Nigeria at the quarter final stages at the 1992 event in Senegal and that of Tunisia 1994. However, when South Africa hosted the competition in 1996, they were eliminated by Ghana, whom they meet on January 20, 2013, in Port Elizabeth at the beckoning competition.
At the 1998 edition in Burkina Faso, DR Congo, led by Louis Watunda Iyolo took third place, beating the hosts 4–1 on penalties. The Leopards repeated that feat when Ghana and Nigeria co-hosted the Nations Cup in 2000.
However, Senegal sent DR Congo packing in the Mali 2002, at the quarter finals stage before taking a tumble in Tunisia 2004 when three straight defeats at the group stages masterminded a first round exit.
Current Coach, Claude Le Roy took charge of the team in 2006 at the tournament in Egypt, and led them to a quarter finals finish after a 1-4 defeat to the host.
The Congolese will engage Ghana in a group opener on Sunday, January 20 with veteran Le Roy who coached the Black Stars to bronze in 2008 downplaying his sides prospects at the continental gathering.
Having guided Cameroon to take the 1988 title, the 64-year-old French claims his side is far from being favourite for the tourney which has Zambia as defending champions.
The Leopards have missed out on the last three continental finals, losing a little shine of their previous tag as the strongest team on the continent. But since taking over in September 2011, Le Roy has managed to turn things around and restored measured hope in his squad and seeks to push his the record of Nations Cup appearances to seven in his second stings as coach of the Leopards.
DR Congo are housed in Group B alongside Ghana, Mali and Niger. GNA