Three new players have been added to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 27-man squad for their crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at Gabon this month, in addition to the recall of two other long-term absentees.
The Congolese are in last place in Group I, although they are only three points behind Gabon, who are also in last place, with Sudan and Mauritania in between.
The Congolese must win their penultimate qualifier, which takes place on Sunday, June 18, away in Franceville, in order to have any hope of making it to the finals in the Ivory Coast the following year.
For the first time, French manager Sebastien Desabre selected central defender Dylan Batubinsika (27), who began his career at Paris Saint-Germain and played in the Champions League this season for Israeli club Maccabi Haifa, along with another central defender and former Belgian youth international Rocky Bushiri and the goalkeeper Esdras Kabamba, who is based in Angola but was originally considered for the final two qualifiers against Mauritania but was ultimately passed over.
Jonathan Bolingi, a junior at Jomo Cosmos, and midfielder Nuke Mfulu, who is based in Spain and has one previous cap, are both back in action for the first time in a year.
The absence of Cédric Bakambu, Olympiakos’ leading scorer in the Greek league this year, who is sidelined following a contentious red card against Mauritania in March, makes the call-ups stand out.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) allegedly decided it would be better not to call him up for the friendly encounter against Uganda in Douala, Cameroon on June 14, which serves as a warm-up for the trip to Gabon, after they declined to reverse his red card.
Fiston Mayele will now be the Congolese’s go-to player for goals. The Young Africans striker has been linked with a move to Kaizer Chiefs for the DStv Premiership season after playing in this weekend’s African Confederation Cup final.
Jol Kiassumbua, the goalkeeper, is out with an injury, while fullback Gédéon Kalulu, midfielder Pelly Mpanzu, who recently received promotion to the Premier League with Luton Town, and forward Silas Katompa are absent due to personal obligations, according to Desabre.
Esdras Kabamba (Bravos do Maquis, Angola), Lionel Mpasi (Rodez, France), Baggio Siadi (TP Mazembe)
Henock Baka (Simba, Tanzania), Dylan Batumbisika (Maccabi Haifa, Israel), Merveille Bope (Standard Liege, Belgium), Rocky Bushiri (Hibernian, Scotland), Jordan Ikoko (Pafos, Greece), Arthur Masuaku (Besiktas, Turkey), Chancel Mbemba (Olympique Marseille, France), Dieumerci Mukoko (Difaa El Jadida, Morocco), Vital Nsimba (Girondins Bordeaux, France), Arsène Zola (Wydad Casablanca, Morocco)
William Balwikisha (Standard Liege, Belgium), Meschak Élia (Young Boys Berne, Switzerland), Glody Lilepo (Al Hilal, Sudan), Nuke Mfulu (Las Palmas, Spain), Samuel Moutoussamy (Nantes, France), Gaël Kakuta (Amiens, France), Arnauld Lusamba (Alanyaspor, Turkey), Aaron Tshibola (AEL Limassol, Cyprus)
Chadrac Akolo (St Gallen, Switzerland), Jonathan Bolingi (Buriram United, Thailand), Theo Bongonda (Cadiz, Spain), Aldo Kalulu (Sochaux, France), Fiston Mayele (Young Africans, Tanzania), Yoane Wissa (Brentford, England).