Cairo's June 30 stadium will host Wednesday's first quarterfinal of the 32nd edition of the 2019 African Nations Cup of Nations, between one of the tournament's favorites, Senegal, and one of the tournament's surprises, Benin.
The Teranga Lions will rely on their top scorer, Sadio Mané, to surprise the Benin team that will play without pressure. The Senegalese, chosen by the observers as title favorites, will do everything to consolidate their status and especially their supremacy over African football, since the class of Aliou Cissé are the first African nation in the FIFA rankings.
Mané & Co want to advance past the quarter-finals, where they were beaten on penalties in Gabon2017 against eventual champions Cameroon.
Mane, top scorer of the 2019 tournament, with three goals, will be happy to help his side qualifying to the semifinals, with an open eye on the final and the trophy itself. "My goal with Senegal is to win the competition," said Liverpool striker Sadio Mané.
The Squirrels of Benin will be on the lookout for this meeting which remains a bonus for the players of Michel Dussuyer, who created the surprise by eliminating one of the title favorites; Morocco, on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
Even if Benin has not yet won a match in Total AFCON 2019 (4 draws in 4 games), Stéphane Sessegnon's teammates will still be able to make a sensation against the Senegalese Lions. The Squirrels have already rewritten history by qualifying for the first time for the quarterfinals in their fourth AFCON appearance.
It’s the first time both sides lock horns together in AFCON history. The game kicks off at 18:00 local time (16:00 GMT) at the Cairo based 30 June Stadium. The winner faces either Madagascar or Tunisia in the semifinal.
What they said
Aliou Cissé (Coach, Senegal)
It will be a difficult match against Benin. If Benin is here, this means that it is a team that has achieved good results in the tournament. In Africa there are no more small teams, and we will take Benin very seriously. They are a good team with fine players and qualities in all compartments. This competition is difficult. Against Uganda, we suffered a bit but we have to get back to work. (Sadio) Mané is fighting for the team. He is a player who understands that the team goes above persons. We are ambitious and we know that we can go far in this competition. I have always said that we will play one match at a time.
Salif Sané (Defender, Senegal)
We know what we are capable of. We are Senegal and we are here to win the trophy. Do not underestimate this Benin team that had a good tournament. I know some players from Benin who are friends and I know it's a team that will do everything to pass the quarter-finals.
Michel Dussuyer (Coach, Benin)
We are in a rising curve and we are going to make a great match to continue our adventure. The fact of being among the top eight teams in Africa is a great achievement for Benin who will play without pressure because all the pressure will be on Senegal. They are a very good team with tactical and physical qualities. Senegal are here to play for the title. In this kind of matches, every detail counts and we must stay focused throughout the match because we are determined to go as far as possible.
Olivier Verdon (Defender, Benin)
We must not stop here. We created the surprise by showing what we are capable of. We are very familiar with Senegal team. They have very good individual players but our group is good too, and I think we are better collectively. For us, it is the mind that will play and we have the right mind to play this game of the quarter-finals.