Le Roy loving his afcon adventure

Veteran Congo coach Claude Le Roy is now savouring this Africa Cup of Nations with his team having put a tricky start firmly behind them.

Back at the continental finals for the first time in 15 years, Congo came from behind to draw 1-1 with hosts Equatorial Guinea in their opening match before a famous 1-0 win against Gabon on Wednesday. Their first victory at the finals since 1974 saw them close in on a place in the quarter-finals.

"It was very difficult for us the first few days here because we had to play against the local team, nothing was easy for us. But since we played Equatorial Guinea, everything has been simple - the bus is there, everything is there, everything is very simple," said Le Roy.

The Red Devils are living a dream, having only been reinstated into the tournament after Rwanda were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.

In their final qualifying group, they looked set to miss out to Nigeria after a 2-0 defeat at home to the Super Eagles in November, but they squeezed through on the final day after winning in Sudan as Nigeria failed to get the home win they needed against South Africa.

"It's unbelievable," admitted the vastly experienced French coach, appearing at his eighth Cup of Nations. "We were in the same group as Nigeria. We created a huge surprise in Calabar (beating the African champions 3-2 on their own patch). But with this team, anything is possible. They like to work, they like to sing together."

Wednesday's 1-0 win over Gabon was Congo's first in the Nations Cup since they beat eventual champions Zaire 2-1 in Egypt 41 years ago. And the country's President Denis Sassou Nguesso was quick to send a message of congratulations to the team.

Le Roy's unheralded team are now top of Group A and need only a draw with Burkina Faso on Sunday in Ebebiyin to reach the knockout stage.  "We are first now and we dream to be first on Sunday evening, but we know it will be very, very tough against Burkina Faso," he admitted. "You know I'm not a coach who plays for a draw so we'll play and see what happens."

However, Le Roy had a message for any Congolese fans who may be getting carried away with dreams of reaching the final. "The final? Please, the final is a long way off. We are talking about getting to the last eight first."


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