Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 9/20
As the 2019 African Cup of Nations progresses steadily towards its conclusion, the tournament will see Senegal take on Benin in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo. Benin have failed to register a win against Senegal in their last four clashes, with one of them ending in a draw and three with Senegal coming out on top.
Having come into the tournament on a six-game unbeaten run, Senegal continued the positive string one by adding a seventh, a 2-0 win over Tanzania in the opening round. Algeria then stepped in and ended the run by beating them 1-0, which eventually enabled them to finish top of Group C, but Senegal sprang back with a 3-0 thrashing of Kenya to secure passage into the knockout stages.
Their first obstacle there was Uganda, who put up a good fight but eventually failed to stop Sadio Mane from settling the game with a single strike, even though the Liverpool forward missed a penalty later in the game.
There are no absentees from the Senegal squad for this game, and it is to be expected that coach Aliou Cisse will opt for the same team that edged past Uganda (more-less), with the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gana Gueye and Sadio Mane leading the way in different areas of the pitch once more.
Benin are without a doubt one of the nicest surprises of the tournament. This is only their fourth appearance at the African Cup of Nations, the first one coming in 2004 and the last one in 2010, and they had never ever managed to get out of their group before now, let alone reach the last eight.
They currently reside in the 88th place of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking list (Senegal are 22nd), 18th among African countries (Senegal 1st). As for the World Cup, Benin never managed to qualify for the planet’s biggest football stage, and they sometimes didn’t even enter the qualifications.
Those facts make their achievements this year all the more impressive.
Nonetheless, they are yet to win a game in 90 minutes in this tournament, having drawn all four so far. In Group F it was 2-2 against Ghana, and 0-0 against both Guinea-Bissau and title defenders Cameroon. Then they played 1-1 with Morocco, with Ajax star Hakim Ziyech missing a 90th-minute penalty for Morocco, before beating them on penalties.
Unlike Senegal, Benin have no big-name players in their ranks. Their arguably best performer in this tournament so far has been 34-year-old forward Mickael Pote, who has joined Turkish second-tier side Buyuksehir Belediye Erzurumspor this summer from Adana Demirspor.
They will, however, be without defender Khaled Adenon for this game. The centre-back was sent off following a second yellow card in the extra-time of the triumph over Morocco in the round of 16.
For all of the pleasant surprises the Benin team have provided for their supporters, it is very difficult to imagine them marching past one of the tournament favorites in Senegal. There is simply too much quality in the team under the command of Aliou Cisse, and they shouldn’t have too many problems when it comes to seeing Benin out, likely with a few goals to spare.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 9/20
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