Congo has already seen historic success in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, its first appearance in the tournament since 2000.
Under the experienced eyes of Frenchman Claude Leroy, the Red Devils opened their bid for trophy with a 1-1 tie against Equatorial Guinea, but then notched a 1-0 victory against Gabon.
Leroy, who’s known affectionately as the “White Witch,” told VOA’s Nicolas Pinault this week that he’s expecting a difficult last game against Burkina Faso on Sunday.
VOA: How did you celebrate this first victory of Congo in the African Cup of Nations since 1974?
LEROY: Last night at the common meal, we enjoyed this first victory for Congo in 41 years in the finals. Indeed, it called for a celebration. We return[ed] to training on Thursday. The work has resumed.
VOA: What makes the playoffs magic still operating during this final phase?
LEROY: It’s been a year that it’s been working, gradually building a core team. There are quality players but, above all, a great state of mind. We know that there is no margin [of error]. We know that if we don’t do the maximum, we are going to meet with cruel disappointment. It will hurt everyone. Whatever happens this adventure is already great!
VOA: What do you think of your next opponent, Burkina Faso? Are they on the brink (of elimination)?
LEROY: They are not on the brink. They are a strong team even if they have not scored in two games. Burkina is still solid and punchy with Pitroipa and the Traore brothers, Bancé. [Behind], they are muscular and go high into the air. We will play as we know how, without taking things too seriously. If you ask me to play a qualifier draw, you can immediately dismiss me because I do not know how. Players must have some fun, seriously.
VOA: Have you accommodation conditions improved?
LEROY: It is much better. People are dedicated to helping us. It was mostly very complicated in the three days before our match against Equatorial Guinea. Since that game is over, everything is much simpler… .
VOA: How do you feel Equatorial Guinea has organized this AFCON, at the last minute?
LEROY: “It’s amazing. It’s a very nice AFCON. I’m not saying this because we have good results. We see people in stadiums. The turf is good. People don’t talk about it, but there is a very good refereeing. In the first 10 matches, the referees were quality. This African Cup of Nations is impressive! Good matches; tight, young talent. It is a beautiful competition. ”
Listen to the original interview in French (and read it here)