Following an unsatisfactory draw at home against Lesotho, Sierra Leone must dodge defeat against the Squirrels of Benin at the Stade Charles de Gaulle on Sunday.
Both nations will battle it for the third time in 11 years in a bid to strengthen their grip after two matches from the group. However, Michel Dussuyer’s side will be desperate for a victory to revamp their quest to reach Cameroon 2021.
It’s worth declaring that Sierra Leone has twice lost against Benin during the 2008 Afcon qualifiers conceding four goals over two legs.
After Benin, Nigeria up next for Sierra Leone meaning a downfall in Cotonou will signal a difficult start in the qualifiers for Leone Stars. It has been 23 years of Sierra Leone bumpy ride trying to reach the continental big stage since 1996.
Coach Sellas Tetteh must be pragmatic in his method against a very good Benin side ranked 35 places ahead of Sierra Leone. His side must be defensively compact, aggressive and show no fear if they are to address Dussuyer’s attacking threats.
Benin Republic’s Captain Stephane Sessegnon became the first player from the Beninouse to score against Nigeria at home since 1965.
Stéphane Sessègnon, Mickaël Poté and Huddersfield Town’s Steve Mounie, expected to make it fast and furious, judging by their recent resurgent in African football.
Sierra Leone’s experienced skipper Umaru Bangura, Hassan Milla Sesay, Alie Sesay and Osman Kakay, if selected as back four must be at their best.
Sierra Leone new strike force, the likes of Mohamed Buya Turay Swedish titleholder and golden boot winner with Djurgårdens IF Fotboll and Mustapha Bundu, who has been instrumental with Danish side Aarhus Gymnastikforening, must relish the opportunity to shine inside Squirrel’s den expected to be a robust atmosphere.
Having lost against the Super Eagles at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo on Wednesday, Benin without any exaggeration going to make life awkward for their visitors in Matchday two of the African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Benin has a reputation not to underestimate weaker opponents, and teams in crisis over the years, they might want to exploit on the recent drama surrounding Sierra Leone with the news of key striker Kei Kamara’s resignation.
Sierra Leone must not replicate recent away record, a 1-0 defeat at the Hawassa Stadium against Ethiopia during the 2019 Afcon qualifiers and a 3-1 defeat in Monrovia.
Benin was a quarter-finalist in the 2019 Afcon in Egypt, unbeaten in the Group F against the likes of Ghana, Cameroon, and Guinea-Bissau.
They are competitive side eliminating Morocco 4-1 on penalties in the 2019 Afcon round of 16 before losing 1-0 to Senegal in the quarter-final with a narrow 1-0 defeat at the Cairo stadium.
Sierra Leone, on the other hand, was eliminated by Liberia 3-2 on aggregates in the 2022 World Cup preliminary qualifiers despite a good performance at home winning 1-0.
The Leone Stars last Afcon final came 23 years ago in South Africa. They managed one victory against Burkina Faso at the Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein goals scored by John Sesay and Mohamed Kallon.
Last meetings AFCON 2008 Qualifiers
8th Oct 2006 Benin 2-0 Sierra Leone – 12 Oct 2007 Sierra Leone 0-2 Benin
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