DR Congo, Zambia settle for 1-1 draw in a thrilling encounter

* DR Congo’s Yoan Wissa — named Man of the Match — is positive despite the draw

*Every game is different and the next one will be different from this one—Zambia coach Avram Grant

* Morocco coach Regragui satisfied after navigating tricky opener against Tanzania which they won 3-0 in first of Group F match

Maravi Express

DR Congo came back from behind to draw level with Zambia in the last first round games of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Côte d’Ivoire 2023 in a thrilling encounter.


The Leopards kicked off well by taking control of the game but were wasteful upfront and Zambia got the lead 23 minutes into the game thanks to Kings Kangwa when the midfielder pounced on goalkeeper Lionel Mpasi error when he came out of his goal area to defend an attack.

Despite taking the lead, Zambia looked a bit down upfront with Paston Daka and Fashion Sakala failing to give enough problems to the DR Congo defense. 

It was an instant impact for DR Congo after going down. They created more chances and were more purposeful this time around that eventually paid when Yoane Wissa connected to Cedric Bakambu’s low cross to score. 

DR Congo came into the second half stronger just as how they ended the first half and it nearly paid off but for VAR. The Leopards were awarded a penalty but was canceled after VAR consultations by referee Bamlak Tessema Weyesa. 

Morocco’s emphatic win means they top Group D with three points followed by DR Congo and Zambia with a point each. 

Zambia’s coach Avram Grant did not want to dwell much on his team’s draw, saying he is already thinking about Tanzania and confidently says it will be a different ball game altogether.

Avram Grant

“Every game is different and the next one will be different from this one,” he said in post match interview. “We will surely put in place another tactic to seek victory against Tanzania.”

Commenting on surrendering the lead against The Leopards, Grant said: “It was a difficult match for both teams. I think we played well. We scored but they equalized very quickly.

“I recognize that the DRC was much better than us, but we defended well and my team fought well,” said Grant, also spoke about the difficulty his players had in finding depth in the game.

“We moved the ball well even if I would have liked to have had more possession. It was difficult for our attackers. They did their best, but the opposition were big and good defenders. We played as a team and that’s what I want to remember.”

Named Man of the Match, DR Congo’s Wissa remained positive despite the draw, saying there were some positives to take: “We created a lot of chances. Now it’s definitely for us to work on putting them at the back of the net.

“But already having so many opportunities is very positive for us. It’s up to us to do well next game. The Zambians also defended well on their line.”

Wissa underlines the role played by coach Sébastien Desabre in setting up the team, saying: “He gives us a lot of confidence and we also have the players for the type of play we produce in front of the opposing defense.”

The Leopards striker ultimately hopes to have much more efficiency in front of goal for the next match: “The beautiful game is of no use when you want to win but not scoring — we did our best but we were not successful. I am sure we will do better.

However, coach Desabre said he is a frustrated man after the draw, saying: “I regret that my attackers were not able to put the ball in the net more than once with all the chances we had.

Coach Desabre

“We were playing well, enterprising, we offered great football but unfortunately, we regret all our missed opportunities.”

Desabre believes that his team was the best on the pitch and that they countered the Zambian team well: “We knew the speed of their attackers. We did everything we could to cut off their passing lines and it worked.

“But once again, I am satisfied with my team but not with the result. We will recover well. Of course, we will still play well as we were this evening. It wasn’t a final.

“There are still two finals remaining and the ambition is to win the next two matches. Above all, I hope that my attackers will be more effective.”

Meanwhile, Morocco coach Walid Regragui, who will now be preparing to face DR Congo on January 21 in their second group game,  expressed satisfaction after his side kicked off their AFCON campaign with a composed 3-0 win over Tanzania.

Walid Regragui

“First matches are always difficult, and the humidity made this one tough, but we respected Tanzania,” said Regragui after the first Group F clash. “The team’s spirit was very good and we got an important win.”

The Atlas Lions boss felt Morocco executed their gameplan well against tricky opponents: “We wanted to score early and had chances, but the goal finally came from a set piece. Once we scored, that was the hard part done.

“At times in the second half we accepted not having the ball and managed the game like a great team,” said Regragui, adding that  Morocco benefitted from playing after other teams at the tournament.

“Seeing their first matches allowed us to avoid the same mistakes. We noticed many sides declined physically in the second half, so we prepared to stay fresh.”


After a composed start, Regragui will hope his talented side can maintain intensity and with stars like Achraf Hakimi and Sofyan Amrabat emerging unscathed, Morocco already appear well-placed to progress in Côte d’Ivoire.

Midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, who scored Morocco’s second goal, was named Player of the Match and told the media that he was delighted with both his own performance and the team’s strong start.

“It was important to begin well and that’s what we did — we have the three points and I’m happy with my personal display and that of the team,” said the 22-year-old Marseille midfielder, who believes the Atlas Lions have built a formidable squad capable of going deep into the tournament.

Azzedine Ounahi

“We have a great team and we are working hard to keep morale high. I think we are ready to go as far as possible,” Ounahi added confidently.

After recent injury issues at club level, Ounahi was pleased to show he is returning to top form in Côte d’Ivoire: “I wasn’t 100% with my club in recent weeks with a back injury but today I’m happy and it’s up to me to keep focused and keep working to get back to my best level.

Ounahi is already looking ahead to Morocco’s next clash with DR Congo as they aim to build momentum and finish top of Group F, saying: “The coach and fitness coach are making a big effort so we stay fit in the hot, humid conditions.”—Info from CAFonline