Congo Kinshasa are blessed with talent but plagued by disorganisation.
They have shown flashes of brilliance in recent years, particularly at Burkina '98, but the overall trend is still downhill.
Louis Watunda, who gave them that third place four years ago is back in charge and has the job of turning the team around.
He has more than 100 European-based players to choose from, but many have declined invitations because of the Simbas' organisational mess.
On the positive side, Monaco striker Shabani Nonda is eligible to play in his first Nations Cup after turning his back on Burundi.
The Congolese have a reputation of combining skill and power, so with better preparation, they could be the dark horses in Mali.