The Gambia makes the trip to Congo DR on Monday having already earned their spot at the Africa Cup of Nations later this year. While the visitors are looking for the victory which may secure first place in Group D, Congo DR will finish in the third position after a disappointing qualification campaign.
After years of frustration watching many of their rivals participate in this tournament, The Gambia has finally secured an opportunity to compete among the continent’s elite.
Assan Ceesay, who has quickly established himself as a household name, scored in the 62nd minute to ensure that the Scorpions will finish in the top two.
Regardless of whether they can improve on that and progress as group winners, Ceesay’s eighth international goal in just 17 outings marked the biggest moment in their history.
With each member of this squad 31 years or below and some of them competing in European football’s top league, there is a growing expectation that they may be able to reach the knockout stages later this year.
Gambia has effectively taken the place of Congo DR, a nation that reached the semi-finals in 2015 and has qualified for the last four tournaments.
The Leopards twice let slip leads against the Gambia in the reverse fixture, conceding a last-minute equaliser which ultimately changed the course of this group.
Their 3-0 defeat in Gabon earlier this week has inevitably led to questions regarding the long-term future of head coach Christian Nsengi-Biembe.
While success on Monday would count for nothing in terms of their finishing position, it may be what is required to ensure that the 58-year-old remains at the helm in the long term.
Biembe could make several alterations to his Congo DR starting lineup now that qualification is out of their reach.
Kadima Kabangu, Glody Makabi Lilepo, Ben Malango and Mukoko Tonombe could all be included in the team.
Barring any late fitness issues, Tom Saintfiet may stick with the Gambia team which started the game with Angola.
Midfielder Dawda Ngum is best placed to be included in the side after coming off the substitutes’ bench to help his nation to success in that game.
DR Congo possible starting lineup: Kiassumbua; Issama, Luyindama, Tisserand, N’Sakala; Tonombe, Bangala; Botaka, Mputu, Kazadi; Malango
Gambia possible starting lineup: Jobe; Colley, Sundberg, Jagne, B.Sanneh; Jallow, Marreh, Manneh, Ceesay; Mbye, Barrow.