Sierra Leone v Benin

Sierra Leone President Bio congratulates Leone Stars on Afcon qualification

01:04 EAT 16/06/2021
Julius Maada Bio
John Keister’s men defeated Benin Republic on Tuesday evening to qualify for their first Afcon finals since 1996

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio has praised the Leone Stars following their historic Africa Cup of Nations qualification victory over Benin Republic on Tuesday evening.

John Keister’s men defeated the Squirrels 1-0 in the last Group L qualification fixture staged at the General Lansana Conte Stadium.

Kei Kamara’s first-half penalty separated the two teams in the keenly-contested affair as Michel Dussuyer’s men would rue missing several scoring opportunities.

The victory ensured Sierra Leone ended their 26-year Afcon hiatus. Their last outing was at the 1996 edition staged in South Africa.

There, they crashed out of the preliminary round after failing to qualify from Group B that paraded Zambia, Algeria, and Burkina Faso.

“Congratulations to Sierra Leone. We are a football-loving nation, and today, our boys have made history. My government is committed to promoting football and other sports disciplines,” President Bio wrote on Twitter.

In March, the country’s number one citizen had promised each member of the Leone Stars the sum of $10,000 should they silence the Squirrels to reach the biennial African football showpiece.

Tuesday’s game was initially billed for March 30 at the National Stadium, Freetown, nonetheless, it did not take place owing to a Covid-19 controversy.

Caf then moved the encounter to June 14, but the game did not take place as planned owing to another Covid controversy.

Finally, the game was postponed by another day – as the result would determine the last team to secure a place in Cameroon.

"There is no pressure. Our ultimate goal is to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, and there is no discomfort within our squad,” Keister told the Caf website prior to the game.

"This squad is a blend of both young and experienced players; I've rationally selected 11 local and 15 foreign-based players.

"What I need now is support from our fans at home and abroad. Already there is a huge willingness among the players and the whole nation wants us to qualify.

“So, I'm on to guide the team to get the best result against Benin and proceed to Cameroon next year."

Benin Republic’s last outing at Afcon was at Egypt 2019 where they bowed out in the quarter-final after a 1-0 defeat to Senegal in Cairo’s 30 June Stadium.