If Benin are to mount a serious challenge to defy the odds and reach the next round of the African Nations Cup, then this fixture already becomes a must-win game for them. The two other members of Group C, Nigeria and Egypt, are strong favourites to win the competition, never mind progress past Round 1, so both the Squirrels and the Mambas will be looking to make the best possible start towards a likely third place finish.
- Benin fans will be hoping for better fortunes this year
Benin are in confident mood going into the match, with a 1-0 friendly win over Libya last week providing good preparation for the upcoming tournament. However, their opponents for the next week or so offer an entirely different ball game, and the Squirrels must be at their very best to avoid a repeat of events in Ghana two years ago. There they lost all three qualifying games and scored only one goal, promptly disposed from the competition in embarrassing style.
The performance of Stephane Sessegnon will play a large part in how Benin begin this year’s competition. His effort for his national side is often questioned, but there is no doubting he is the most creative and skilful player in the national side. If not for his country’s benefit, Sessegnon could certainly use the competition to showcase himself to Europe’s top sides, as he has proved he is well-equipped to play for them.
- Sessegnon in action for club side, PSG
Razak Omotoyossi will also be called upon to deliver the goods for Benin as he has done so often in the past, becoming Benin’s ‘Mr Reliable’ with his contribution up front. Evian TG striker Mohamed Aoudou, although young, is also rated highly, while the experience of midfielders Jocelyn Ahoueya and Seidath Tchomogo (who have around 77 caps between them) will prove vital.
However, Mozambique are no pushover. Although separated by 13 FIFA World Ranking places, the Mambas are similar in depth and quality, and will prove a difficult first test for Benin coach Michel Dussuyer to overcome. His side will have to particularly watch out for captain Manuel ‘Tico-Tico’ Bucaune, one of Mozambique’s most well known players and the main source of goals for his country.
- Benin need to restrain Tico Tico if they are to have any chance of winning the game
This is a difficult game to predict. Both sides are evenly matched in terms of ability, previous history, and familiarity of players. In addition, they both have the same target of avoiding a last place finish, and will therefore be determined to ensure a more positive outcome. But whatever the result of tomorrow’s game, a piece of African Nations Cup history will be created. Neither team have yet won a solitary point throughout the entire history of the competition, so a point apiece looks the fairest, and the likeliest, conclusion.
Benin 1-1 Mozambique
Omotoyossi H. Pelembe