Benin have shown enough at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt for opponents to know they are no pushovers and as they face Senegal in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, The Squirrels are poised to prove that point one more time.
Michel Dussuyer's outfit have already accounted for the elimination of favourites Morocco, having earlier held their own to force draws against five-time champions Cameroon and four-time winners Ghana during the group stage.
Senegal, though, will fancy their chances - probably the most in their history so far in a quarter-final game - not least because of the array of stars they have in their team.
The match is set for the 30 June Stadium in Cairo.
|Senegal v Benin|
|Date||Wednesday, July 10|
Squads & Team News
Benin have certainly been dealt a heavy blow by the absence of veteran centre-back Khaled Adenon who was sent off in extra-time during the Round of 16 clash with Morocco. An appeal to have the booking overturned was rejected by Caf on Tuesday, so Seidou Baraze is likely to start on Wednesday.
Goalkeeper Fabien Farnolle still remains a doubt for the game but it is not all gloomy for The Squirrels.
Star striker Steve Mounie is expected to return to action after serving a one-match suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.
It will not be out of place to think the availability of the Huddersfield Town frontman is partly responsible for the confidence of Squirrels boss Michel Dussuyer ahead of what is undoubtedly the biggest game in Benin's football history.
"We are on a rising curve and we are going to have a great match to continue our adventure," said the Frenchman at the pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
"The fact of being among the top eight teams in Africa is good for Benin who will play without pressure because the pressure will be on the Senegalese side."
Senegal should line up the same way for the third match in a row when they face Benin, which says a lot about the stability of Aliou Cisse's outfit.
Cisse may have the stability, big star players like Sadio Mane and the favourites tag but he's certainly not getting carried away ahead of their clash with Benin.
"Facing Benin, it will be a difficult match. If Benin are there [in the quarter-finals], it means that it is a team that have achieved good results. In Africa, there are no more small teams and we will take this team from Benin very seriously," the coach said at the pre-match presser.
"Humility and modesty are very important. Benin is a serious team with individualities, qualities in all compartments. The competition is difficult and it's hot too."
As impressive as a historic quarter-final Afcon place looks for Benin, they have never won a game at the tournament.
In fact, The Squirrels have so far played 13 matches without a victory, their run extended by their three draws in the group stage of this year's championship and the Round of 16 fixture with Morocco which was drawn after extra-time and went to a penalty shootout.
Also significantly, the west Africans have played the most matches without a win in Afcon history and are the first team [along with Tunisia] to remain in a single tournament despite winning any of their first four games.
The Lions of Teranga's numbers going into Wednesday's game are not without blemish too.
Cisse's outfit have lost just one of their last eight Afcon games (W5 D2) but on the other hand, before the Round of 16 triumph over Uganda, Senegal had lost nine of their last 14 Afcon knockout stage matches, the last win coming in the quarter-finals against Guinea in 2006.
Although at this tournament, the Lions have the form of Liverpool striker Sadio Mane to rely on after he has scored Senegal’s last three goals in the tournament and sits as the joint-top scorer at the competition.
This will be the first Afcon encounter between the two sides.