Young Leopards with all to play for

Congo DR coach Polycarpe Issotonga, or Poly Bonghanya as he is more commonly known, is in relaxed and optimistic mood ahead of his side's opening game here at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Chile 2008. And though the task awaiting the Young Leopards in South America looks far from easy - they find themselves in a tough group, and in their only other appearance in this competition, at Russia 2006, they lost all three of their games - the spirit in the camp could not be better.

"I think that after our experience in Russia, our goal here will be to get into the next round. We know that the competition for places there will be fierce, but this group of players is much better than the one we had in Russia," the coach told "We're also raring to get our first win on the board," he adds enthusiastically.

However, the odds are stacked against the Congolese achieving that in their first game, with the draw pitting them against one of the favourites, Germany, this Thursday in the Santiago suburb of La Florida. "This game will give us a good indication of our chances in Chile and is of major importance to us. I believe the result will determine whether of not we can progress from the group," predicts Bonghanya, whose nom de guerre means ‘adept at winning' in his homeland.

One of the reasons for the coach's optimism is that ten members of his squad are veterans of Russia 2006. "Those girls form the foundation of our team. We'll be counting on their experience, their courage and their ability, which will give the team real strength. We're fully confident that with those ten ‘veterans' in the squad, we can have some great games here and manage some very good results," says the coach.

"The girls are on form and can't wait to get on the pitch. Also the high temperatures here could work in our favour, as Germany will have to get used to this, having just left the cold weather of their autumn," he adds with a wink.

Asked what his side's best qualities were, Bonghanya reflects for a moment then says: "We have a lot of confidence in our own abilities. I also feel the team has a good balance between speed and skill, and the kind of spirit that can make you win."

After their opener against the Europeans, the Congolese then face Canada on 23 November and Japan four days later to round off their Group C campaign. "Our starting point is always to have the utmost respect for our opponents, and Canada are very strong in women's football. The same goes for Japan, who have a very fast and physically strong side," says the coach, who finishes up by insisting once again that, come what may, his side "are ready".