CHAN2016: DR Congo may be the favorite but why not Mali?

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Jejje MuhindeMali player celebrates after scoring a comeback against Tunisia in a game that ended 2-2 all (Courtesy photo)

In less than 24 hours from now, DR Congo and Mali contest in the 2016 CHAN finals in Rwanda at Amahoro stadium on Sunday, as both sides battle for the African Nations Championship trophy.

It was a shame hosts Rwanda could not go all the way, they were knocked out 1-0 in the quarter finals stage last weekend by DR Congo who look to be favourites to win the title in the African Nations Championship exclusively for home based players only.

Perhaps since Friday, and even when we speak thousands of Congolese fans are said to have crossed the border to head to Kigali in buses and it is expected we are likely to see a full Amahoro stadium when the finals kick off.

There will also be the support of Rwandans who have continued to lend their support during the remarkably tournament.DRC won the inaugural CHAN tournament in 2009 in Ivory Coast.

The youthful Mali side have played under expectations, and this will be an exciting tournament because DR Congo reached finals and there many Congolese who leave in Kigali. Mali shocked the African giants the Elephants of Ivory Coast 1-0 in the semis finals.

Mali has been the surprising packages of the tournament, and their open and attacking format of playing has won them many fans and supporters. Here is a recap of the full preview of the finals.

The leopards will hope to repeat the success of seven years ago when they won the title in Ivory Coast. They came into this tournament well-informed for success after ample opening victories against Ethiopia and Angola, winning 3-0 and 4-2 respectively in the group stages.

Despite the defeat to Cameroon in the final group match that saw the Indomitable Lions leading the Pool B with DR Congo relaxing for second spot, they laboured through to reach the finals.

Just like the Leopards, Mali also qualified as group runner-up, they only won one game and the rest were draws in Pool D.They drew with Uganda and Zambia respectively by peppered a slight 1-0 victoryover Zimbabwe. They remained undefeated at the group stages.

DR Congo pounced through the quarter and semi-finals shocking host Rwanda in a game that saw both sides settle their differences in the extra time.

They also beat Guinea on penalties.  DR Congo goal drought dried up after the group stages, where they netted eight in three matches.

DRC will miss the services of defender Padou Bompunga because of a second booking and this could provide an opportunity to the Mali.

But they will have to rely on goalie keeper Ley Matampi who ply’s his trade for the Africa’s most successful team DR Motema Pembe.

He was the hero in their last two games, when he saved two penalties against Guinea, to earn the man of the match honour.

While match is anticipated to bring an intriguing pinnacle to the three week long tournament organized by CAF, DRC aim to become the first side to lift the title twice when in Kigali.

In his interview head coach Florent Ibenge believes, “We shall only be favorites after winning the title in the finals against Mali.”

“Our bodies may be exhausted because of the extras minutes playing during the quarter and semis’ but we have the will to win this tournament. We hope to recover given the two days break. Mali has physical players but we have players who can match them.”

Meanwhile, Mali exhibited elasticity when they beat two of the major nations in this year’s edition of the CHAN tournament. They defeated Tunisia and the Ivorian two teams believed to make the finals.

Ibenge is worried about two issues at hand, “I am worried of the fitness levels of our striker Heritier Luvumbu and suspension of Padou. But I believe the replacements have the will of winning against Mali.” Ibenge who addressed the reporters at Amahoro said.

Llikewise the youth full Mali side will play without their superman and inspirational midfielder Sekou Diarra who was suspended but they have the likes of U-17 skipper Abdoul Dante from COB and MamadouCoulibaly the striker from Stade Malien. Most of the Mali players are featuring in the tournament for the time.

In the other game, Ivory Coast will be aiming to make up for their semi-final flop when they meet Guinea in the play-off game. It is the first time that the Ivorian’s have reached this stage.

Taking history into account, there will surely be a new champion for the 2016 CHAN games, because the 2014 winner Libya missed the party in Kigali having failed to qualify for the tournament.  It is the first time in history for the winner not to make it to the next tournament and as DR Congo seems to be favorite Mali should not be ruled out.

A total of 16 national teams will have to share 3.2 million USD, rest of the rewards to be received by teams include:

Winner $750,000 plus Gold

Runner-Up $250,000 each plus Sliver

3rd &4th 250,000 each plus Bronze

Quarter Final Losers $ 1750,000 each

3rd in Group $150,000 each

4thin Group $100,000

Total $3.250, 000

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