Wll The Squirrels get past The Pharaohs, the Super Eagles and The Mambas to reach the second round? Time will tell...
AFCON Appearances: Two
AFCON Titles: None
The Benin national football team, Les Écureuils (The Squirrels), will go to the 2010 African Cup of Nations in Angola with the sole intent of improving their stature on the continental stage. Their qualification for Angola’s finals marked their third successful appearance in the coveted African championship. They participated in the 2004 and 2008 tournaments where they were eliminated in the first round. On both occasions, they lost all three matches.
The Squirrels, who are currently ranked in a respectable 59th position in the FIFA World rankings have since raised their game and can now face the continental big-boys without fear and squeeze a result as they did against Ghana in their second last group qualifying match in October. In that match, they ended the Black Stars 100% record by scoring in the 92nd minute courtesy of youngster Mohamed Aoudou.
The result granted them their second consecutive appearance in the continental football bonanza and a rise in the FIFA rankings. The result also raised their confidence because edging a continental giant like Ghana doesn’t happen every day, especially for a side that is shedding the minnow label.
But to qualify for the quarter-finals, The Squirrels must get the better of continental giants and defending champions Egypt, the mighty Super Eagles of Nigeria and the fast rising Mambas of Mozambique. It is a tall order, but for them to raise their stature further, they must humble the best in the game.
Road To Qualification
After qualifying from the first round, Benin was placed in Group 3 in the second round of the qualifiers together with Angola, Uganda and Niger. After playing all their matches in the seemingly friendly group, the Les Écureuils finished at the top of their table with 12 points after registering four wins and two losses.
The spot earned them a place in the third round pooling, and in they were placed in Group D with Ghana, Mali, and Sudan. After playing all six matches, they finished runners up in the group with 10 points ahead of Ghana who earned 13 points. Mali managed 9 while Sudan picked up only one point.
This is the squad that has been involved in the 2010 campaign:
Goalkeepers: Yoann Djidonou (Red-Star Saint-Ouen), Benoît Tardieu (Clermont Foot), Rachad Chitou (Wikki Tourists) and Valere Amoussou (Mogas 90 FC).
Defenders: Anicet Adjamossi (US Créteil), Abdou Khaled Adenon (Le Mans), Damien Chrysostome (FC Metz), Moustapha Agnide (AS Vitre), Noël Séka (FC Fyn), Samuel Emmanuel Suka, Tony Toklomety (MŠK Žilina), Sylvain Remy, Bio Ai Traore (Panthères FC), Achille Rouga.
Midfielders:Jocelyn Abhouéya (FC Sion), Oscar Olou (FC Rouen), Romauld Boco (Sligo Rovers), Mouritala Ogunbiyi (Étoile Sahel), Wassiou Oladipupo (JS Kabylie), Djiman Koukou (Soleil FC), Nouihoum Kobena (Djoliba AC), Sosthene Soglo (Energie FC), Jonas Okétola (Thanda Royal Zulu), Seidath Tchomogo (East Riffa), Stéphane Sessegnon (Paris Saint-Germain).
Attackers: Moussoro Kabirou, Abdoulaye Ouzerou (Buffles FC), Daniel Gbaguidi (Olympique Marseille), Razak Omotoyossi (Al-Nasr), Abou Maiga (US Créteil), Oumar Tchomogo (Portimonense SC), Mickaël Potté (Clermont Foot).
Dussuyer was born in 1959 in France. He was appointed by the Benin FA in June 2008. Before his appointment, Dussuyer served as the Ivory Coast’s assistant manager back in 2006, when the Elephants finished second at the Africa Cup of Nations championship held in Egypt.
Earlier in 2002 he served as a manager of the Guinea national team. Before entering the technical bench, the Frenchman played for OGC, Olympique Ales and AS Cannes. He later returned to coach AS Cannes from 1996-2002. He later briefly coached AS Cannes in 2006-2007 before being appointed to manage The Squirrels. Leading The Squirrels to Angola has presented Michel another chance to leave a mark at the continental stage.
Without doubt, the Nigerian born Razak Omotoyossi has been the engine of the Benin team since he was given his first cap in 2004. Born in 1985, the 24-year-old striker who currently plays for the Ligue 1 side FC Metz started his career in his native Nigeria.
He was banned for five years for allegedly assaulting a referee during a Premier League game between his club, Sunshine Stars FC and visiting Enyimba FC.
Video evidence later showed that Razak was not anywhere close to the referee and the ban was therefore lifted, but he had already left to play in the neighboring Benin as the ban wasn't sanctioned by CAF or FIFA. He later switched to Beninese citizenship the same year.
His international career has been impressive since his first outing in 2004. He has so far scored 14 goals in 28 appearances for the team. In 2008 he scored 8 goals in 8 matches for his national team, making him joint top scorer in the African World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers with Samuel Eto’o.
He also scored Benin’s winning goal against Sudan on June 5, 2009 in a World Cup qualifying match to kick off their campaign with a winning start. With all his past impressive performances, Benin’s gargantuan expectation will rest in the shoulders of Razak Omotoyossi to deliver in the hour of need.
Born in 30, November 1989, Mohamed Aoudou is already making waves in the football world. The 20-year-old Beninese striker fresh on the international stage has already scored two important goals for The Squirrels in just three appearances.
In September Benin was one goal down against Mali but the hot striker equalized and in October when the team faced the mighty Ghana, it was Aoudou who made a difference by scoring the lone goal in the closing stages of the game.
Aoudou plays for Evian Thonon Gaillard who feature in the French national league. With his impressive start in the national colours, much will be expected from Aoudou in Angola where he will lead Benin's attacking onslaught.
Having made a lacklustre performance in the past, Benin will aim to go past the first round. But looking at the teams they will be facing, The Squirrels have few chances of progressing into the quarterfinals of the 2010 Africa Cup of nations.
Getting past Egypt and Nigeria will be an uphill task but getting at least a draw from one or both is not impossible. The Squirrels fans will be happy if the team at least finishes third and win their first match in the Angolan tournament.
Considering the stature of their opponents, Benin despite their current improvement will unfortunately finish last in the group.