World Cup 2026: New talent joins DR Congo for critical qualifiers


DR Congo national team coach Sébastien Desabre has unveiled a revamped squad featuring four new players for the crucial 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Senegal and Togo next month.

With key strikers Cédric Bakambu and Silas Katompa unavailable, Desabre has turned to fresh talent to bolster the Leopards’ lineup.

Among the newcomers is 26-year-old Axel Tuanzebe, a former England U21 defender currently playing for Ipswich Town. Eligible for DR Congo through his parentage, Tuanzebe is expected to bring much-needed experience to the defense for the vital double-header.

Joining him is 19-year-old Noah Sadiki, a promising midfielder born in Brussels who had the option to represent Belgium but chose to align with the Leopards.

Sadiki has shown impressive form for Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise this season, making him a valuable addition to the squad.

Samuel Essende, a prolific striker based in Portugal, is another exciting inclusion. The 26-year-old has been a standout performer for Vizela, scoring 15 goals this season after progressing through the ranks at Paris Saint-Germain.

Essende’s goal-scoring prowess will be crucial as DR Congo aims to enhance its attacking options.

Completing the quartet of first-time call-ups is 24-year-old goalkeeper Timothy Fayulu, who plays for Sion. A former Switzerland youth international, Fayulu’s selection adds depth to the goalkeeping department.

Desabre has also recalled Edo Kayembe and Chadrac Akolo, both of whom missed the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations.

However, there is no place for Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka or Leicester City’s Stephy Mavididi, despite recent speculation about their potential allegiance switches.

The Leopards currently sit third in Group B of World Cup qualifying, following a victory over Mauritania and a controversial loss to Sudan in their previous matches last November.

With Senegal and Sudan leading the group on four points each, the upcoming fixtures are critical for DR Congo’s qualification hopes.

DR Congo faces a formidable challenge on June 6, traveling to Dakar to take on Africa’s highest-ranked team, Senegal.

Three days later, they will host Togo in a match that could prove pivotal in their quest for a spot at the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

The full list of 25 players called up by DR Congo:


  • Dimitri Bertaud
  • Esdras Kabamba
  • Timothy Fayulu


  • Axel Tuanzebe
  • Gedeon Kalulu
  • Arthur Masuaku
  • Jorris Kayembe
  • Henock Inonga
  • Chancel Mbemba
  • Dylan Batubinsika
  • Rocky Bushiri


  • Charles Pickel
  • Aaron Tshibola
  • Edo Kayembe
  • Samuel Moutoussamy
  • Noah Sadiki
  • Grady Diangana
  • Gael Kakuta
  • Meschac Elia
  • Chadrac Akolo
  • Theo Bongonda


  • Yoane Wissa
  • Son Mayele
  • Simon Banza
  • Samuel Essende

Desabre’s strategic inclusion of new talent reflects his commitment to rejuvenating the squad and exploring diverse options as the Leopards aim to secure their place on football’s grandest stage.

The forthcoming matches promise to be a stern test of DR Congo’s resolve and aspirations for the 2026 World Cup.

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