Benin Squirrels hope of shocking Morocco’s Atlas Lions

Morocco players warm up during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals South Africa and Morocco at Al Salam Stadium, Cairo, Egypt on 01 July 2019 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Morocco faces Benin as the curtain raises off the Round of 16 of the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations at Cairo based AL Salam stadium on Friday (5 July 2019) at 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT).

Morocco topped Group D with maximum points to reach the eighth finals in grand style. The Atlas Lions won their three matches with identical results (1-0) over Namibia, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa). Meanwhile Benin had a historical feat when they managed to pass the group stage for the first time in their history, finishing as one of best third placed teams after finishing Group F with three points from three draws (2-2) with Ghana and goalless with Guinea-Bissau and Cameroon.

It’s the second time both sides lock horns in AFCON history. Morocco won 4-0 when they faced in Tunisia 2004.

On the lines, it will be an all French affair between twice AFCON winner Herve Renard (2012 with Zambia and 2015 with Cote d’Ivoire), and compatriot Michel Dussuyer who led Benin to their historical feat.

Renard admitted the game is going to be difficult, saying Benin is a very organized team especially defensively. While Dussuyer showed his admiration to Morocco, title favorites as he tagged them, blaming the short period of rest his side had after finishing the group stage just 72 hours before the eighth finals clash.

What they said

Herve Renard (Coach, Morocco)

We have to be responsible and win this match. In the knockout stages being mentally prepared is the most important point. We are ready technically and physically, but we have to be focused from the very first minute. We have passion to continue our positive results. We believe in ourselves and we have to play positively because it’s difficult to make amends at this stage.

M’barak Boussoufa (Midfielder, Morocco)

Individual titles mean nothing, what matters is winning something for the team. In football no player wins alone, but the team does. My mission is to be a key part of my team.

Michel Dussuyer (Coach, Benin)

I know Morocco well, they are a great talented team and they are title favorites. We are the least team to have some rest but we can never complain about that. We are ready for the challenge. I have a brave team and we will try to so our best. We feel proud that we made our supporters happy after all this long wait, and we’re looking forward to their reception when we get back to Benin.

Mikael Pote (Forward, Benin)

We showed everyone we can play in front of big teams. Some people put their bets on us, some others just criticize. Anyway we proved we deserve to be here. I’m ready to take part with my colleagues in this adventure should the coach gives my playing chance tomorrow.