Record Africa Cup appearance by Le Roy in balance

AFP
Record Africa Cup appearance by Le Roy in balance
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DR Congo coach Claude le Roy (C) watches his players warm up ahead of a match in the capital Kinshasa …

A record seventh appearance by Claude Le Roy at the Africa Cup of Nations hung in the balance on the eve of the competition on Friday, amid claims he had quit as coach of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Congolese TV station said the Frenchman handed a letter of resignation to team leader Theo Binamungu, but national football association president Constant Omari denied the coach had quit.

Assistant coach Sebastian Migne has also reportedly resigned because of poor management of the team, who play four-time champions Ghana on Sunday in the opening Group B fixture.

Widely respected Le Roy has guided Cameroon to the 1988 title and Senegal twice each at the premier African football tournament as well as DR Congo and Ghana.

He also took Cameroon to the 1986 final which they lost on penalties against Egypt and was also in charge of Ghana when they hosted the 2008 competition, finishing third.

On top of that, when he led Senegal to the semi-finals in 1990, it was the first time the team had even got past the first round.

The Cup of Nations kicks-off Saturday with a Group A double-header -- South Africa versus Cape Verde Islands and Angola versus Morocco - before a sell-out 90,000 crowd at Soccer City stadium in Soweto.

Meanwhile, star defender Stoppila Sunzu will return to training with Zambia Saturday after spending this week on trial at relegation-threatened English Premier League outfit Reading.

Sunzu, who plays for four-time CAF Champions League winners Tout Puissant Mazembe in DR Congo, hopes to clinch a deal during the mid-season transfer window.

But the attention of the 2012 CAF Africa-based Footballer of the Year finalist and his team-mates now turns to the opening Group C match against Ethiopia at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Monday.

Sunzu has missed most of the Zambian preparations as they get set to defend a title won against the odds in Gabon last year with the centre-back striking the winning goal against the Ivory Coast in the penalty shootout.

Although given little chance by pundits of repeating the 2012 triumph, Zambia coach Herve Renard remains optimistic they can emulate Egypt, Cameroon and Ghana and successfully defend the crown.

"It will be very difficult to defeat this Zambian team," he told reporters. "Should we fail to retain the trophy, it simply means another country was better than us."

Burkina Faso, who confront Nigeria in the second half of the Group C double-header, will be without star midfielder Charles Kabore and ace goal poacher Alain Traore.

Kabore carried a suspension into the tournament after yellow cards in qualifiers against the Central African Republic, and Traore has not fully recovered from a heel injury.

The Stallions owe their place at the 16-team tournament to the predatory instincts of Traore, who snatched the tie-clinching goal against the central Africans deep into stoppage time.

Burkina Faso defeated South African champions Orlando Pirates 3-0 in a Nelspruit warm-up thanks to goals from Aristide Bance, Abdou Razack Traore and Pierre Koulibaly.

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