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Football | Africa

Dieumerci Mbokani © Backpagepix

DRC, Libya in a race top spot



The Democratic Republic of Congo will welcome Libya to the Stade de Martyrs on Sunday afternoon for a 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifying encounter in Kinshasa, kick-off at 4:30pm.

Libya will be out to protect their unbeaten record in the qualifying stages. The Libyans currently top Group I with four points after a win and a draw in their opening two matches.

The Libyans started the qualifiers on a brilliant note with a 2-1 win at home in Sfax over declining African football giants Cameroon.

It was then followed up by a credible 1-1 draw in Lome against Togo, who recently reached the quarterfinals of this year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.

The 65nd Fifa ranked North African side has never before qualified for the world football showpiece event. The closest Libya came to qualifying for the World Cup was in 1986 when they lost out to Morocco in the final round.

The Libyan Football Federation (LFF) have started negotiations with former Egypt manager Hassan Shehata to appoint him as the Libyan national team coach ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Shehata had a short coaching stint in the Arab country when he led Ahly of Bani Ghazi in 1999.

The country's national team has been led by coach Abdel-Hafiz Arbish since the sacking of Brazilian Marcos Bakita earlier this year.

The North Africans will travel to Kigali to meet Rwanda in a friendly on March 20th before their trip to Kinshasa. This past weekend in Morocco they defeated Senegal 4-0, who had a team made up of locally based players.

The Congolese are in second place on the standings and most importantly for them just a point behind Libya. A home win in this fixture will most likely see them ascend to the summit of the group only if Cameroon fails to win their match against Togo.

The Leopards of Congo, who are ranked 79th in the world by Fifa, will be motivated by their decent showing at Afcon 2013 where they managed group stage draws against eventual semifinalists Ghana and Mali, and were eliminated from the tournament without losing a match.

The DRC are ranked in 20th place on the African continent while Libya are placed seven places higher.

The DRC, who are two time African champions, have only reached the World Cup once, which was at the 1974 edition in West Germany as Zaire.

An all Ghanaian officiating team will be in charge of this match. Referee William Agbovi will call this match down the middle alongside his compatriots of assistants.

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