It will be exactly 20 years since Congo made their last appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, and they will be hoping to do better than when they won one of three games and narrowly missed out on progress at the 1991 finals in Italy when they were one of three African representatives. Congo were also participants at the very first championship at the under-17 level, played in China in 1985, and as such they lay claim to being in the aristocracy of the junior game, a pioneer at a time when the age group events were still being introduced to the world football calendar.
Congo had already established their credentials by eliminating Nigeria in the first round of qualifiers for Mexico 2011, and they enhanced that with a 3-0 victory over defending champions Gambia in the opening game of the CAF U-17 Championships in Rwanda. A win over Mali in their last group contest ensured a semi-final berth, and with it, qualification to the finals in mid-year. Congo went through the tournament unbeaten, losing in the semi-final in a post-match penalty shootout to eventual winners Burkina Faso after a 1-1 draw. They finished off their tournament with a 2-1 triumph over Côte d’Ivoire for the bronze medal.
Eddie Hudanski qualified Congo for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada four years ago and has now done the same at under-17 level. This success is the result of work done at the academy he helped set up in Brazzaville to develop young Congolese talent. The fruits of the labour have been harvested at continental level, but Hudanski believes it can be done at the tournament in Mexico, too. “The great thing about the tournament is that the level of competition has been so good,” Hudanski said of the event in Rwanda.