Success came quickly for Congo DR as the newcomers advanced to Germany 1974 in their first attempt at qualifying, yet that remains their one and only trip to the global showcase. The Leopards – previously nicknamed the Simbas – have fallen short ever since and failed to reach the last round of qualifying for South Africa 2010, finishing behind Egypt in their second-round group.
FIFA World Cup finals history
Then known as Zaire, Congo DR became the first sub-Saharan nation to contest a FIFA World Cup™ final tournament when they travelled to Germany 1974. The debutants went into the tournament fresh from adding the 1974 CAF Africa Cup of Nations title to their 1968 crown, but were quickly brought back down to earth by consecutive losses to Brazil, Scotland and Yugoslavia. They were also unable to find the net and conceded no fewer than 14 times, nine of those goals coming against Yugoslavia – giving them the unenviable record of having suffered the joint-heaviest defeat in finals history along with El Salvador.
The current crop
The Leopards are on the move again, hungry for continental honours as well as a place at the FIFA World Cup. This return to form has had much to do with the revival of iconic club TP Mazembe, the Lubumbashi outfit having recently added a pair of CAF Champions League titles to their list of honours, as well as reaching the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup. Mazembe provide the spine of the national team while the rest of the side is composed of players making names for themselves in Europe, and together they have struck a sound balance, even if confidence remains slightly fragile.
The key players
A popular figure in his homeland and voted player of the 2009 CAF African Nations Championship, Tresor Mputu has emerged as the long-term successor to Shabani Nonda. He is ably supported by effective finishers Dieumerci Mbokani and Dioko Kaluyituka, while Muteba Kidiaba provides solidity between the posts, and with powerful midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu and veteran forward Lomana LuaLua providing Premier League experience, the Leopards have plenty of reasons to be feared on the road to Brazil 2014.
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Germany 1974 (Group stages)
Former stars: Shabani Nonda, Mulamba Ndaye, Etepe Kakoko