Tuesday, July 9, 2019 3:11 pm
The Teranga Lions of Senegal will on Wednesday square up against giant killing Squirrels of Benin in the first quarter-finals match of the 2019 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.
From Dakar to Cotonou, the two ECOWAS members would surely be putting aside francophone and regional ties to battle for a semi-final place in the tournament.
The tricky West African derby has been termed a David versus Goliath battle in view of Senegal being the highest ranked team on the continent while lowly ranked Benin had never qualified for the knockout stage of AFCON before now.
A 1-0 victory over Uganda was enough to see Senegal through to the quarter finals; Sadio Mane’s effort in the 15th minute proved to be the difference, although the Liverpool forward went on to miss a second half penalty.
Aliou Cisse’s men continued to underline their status as one of the favourites for the title with a string of stellar displays.
With three wins in four matches and keeping clean sheets in all their victories.
Mane with three goals in the competition so far is expected to continue in attack alongside Ismaila Sarr while Keita Balde is likely to return to the starting lineup having played as a second half substitute against Uganda.
Benin on the other hand stunned Morocco on penalties to book their place in the quarter finals.
Moise Adilehou’s first half effort had been cancelled out by the North Africans for a 1-1 draw in regulation time before the Squirrels triumphed 4-1 in the penalty shootout.
Michel Dussuyer’s men have still never won an AFCON match in regulation time with eight defeats and five draws from 13 previous matches.
Benin would be without key defender Khaled Adenon, who was sent off in extra time against Morocco.
Steve Mounie is set to return having missed the Round of 16 due to suspension while Mickael Pote is likely to continue in attack despite failing to score in his last three matches.
Senegal have never lost to Benin, claiming three wins and one draw from four previous matches.
The most recent meeting was 2-1 victory in a friendly back in 2008.
Mane would be the one to watch for Senegal with the forward looking to add to his three goals in the competition.
His combination with Keita Balde and Sarr would definitely give the Beninionise defence trouble.
Napolis’s Kalidou Koulibaly has also been solid at the back for Senegal, leading them to three clean sheets in four matches.
He would be confident of shutting out the duo of Mickael Pote and Steve Mounie, both of whom have struggled in Egypt.
Soccer pundits have tipped Senegal to win the match but with Benin knocking out another favorite, Morocco in the round of 16, an upset might just be on the cards.
NAN reports that West African still holds the ace in the quarter-finals stage with four teams (Nigeria, Senegal, Benin, Ivory Coast), North Africa: two (Algeria, Tunisia) and Southern Africa: two (South Africa, Madagascar).
“We are glad we have four ECOWAS countries in the quarter-finals stage of the 2019 AFCON.
“With West Africa being the powerhouse of African football, we hope one of the teams will go ahead and lift the trophy at the end of the competition,” President, ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said.