The Al Salam Stadium is the venue as Morocco and Benin face off against one another in the Last 16 of this year’s AFCON. Morocco finished top of Group D quite comfortably in the end, amassing nine points in three games and keeping a clean sheet in each, whereas Benin qualified by the skin of their teeth after coming third in Group F, two points behind joint leader Cameroon and Ghana. When the pair last met, Morocco thrashed their opponents by six goals to one, so Benin will be out for revenge here.
Morocco were the victors by a solitary goal in each of their three group stage matches, seeing off Namibia, Ivory Coast and South Africa in the process. They were actually rather fortunate to earn maximum points versus Namibia as the game looked destined to end goalless until Itamunua hit into his own net in the 89th minute. There was no such drama against Ivory Coast though as Youssef En-Nesyri ensured the result would go in favour of his team with an early strike in the first half, assisted by Nordin Amrabat. Then came the crunch match with South Africa where so much was on the line, and if not for a last gasp goal from Mbark Boussoufa, Morocco could’ve been facing a much tougher opposition at this point of the tournament. Thankfully, from their point of view, they managed to earn another 1-0 victory and progress to the next round top of the group.
Benin’s group stage encounters proved to be particularly odd. Winless and unbeaten in all three outings, they scored just twice and failed to add to their tally after the opening clash with Ghana. In that matchup it was Pote who provided Benin with a shock lead only two minutes into the affair, however Andre Ayew and Jordan Ayew soon put the Black Stars in the driving seat later in the first half. Little over an hour had passed when Pote netted his second of the day and made sure that the two would take a point each. The stalemates against Guinea-Bissau and Cameroon were dull and none of the sides could create any real guilt-edge opportunities, although Benin will be pleased that they avoided defeat against a team as strong ad Cameroon currently are. These scorelines saw them end the group stage in third on three points, but they’ll need a win here or else Benin face elimination.
It looks likely that Morocco will start the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation, just as they did in the matches against Namibia and South Africa. No injury worries means that Herve Renard can rest assured that he’ll have everyone fit and ready to go come Friday which is obviously a massive boost ahead of such an important fixture. We can see Manuel da Costa and Romain Saiss remaining at the heart of Morocco’s defence with Boussoufa just ahead, while Younes Belhanda should sit in the middle of a three man attacking midfield, partnered by Hakim Ziyech and Amrabat. Up front, En-Nesyri will play as a lone striker.
Benin will also have their entire squad available for this key game, and they will need everybody on top form if they are to get through this mighty task. It’s difficult to predict how they’ll line up, as they have not conceded a goal since switching to 4-1-4-1 against Guinea-Bissau, but they have not scored in the two matches either. However, we think Benin will keep the 4-1-4-1 due to its solidity and hope some chances will present themselves. Khaled Adenon and Olivier Verdon will sit inside Seidou Bazare and David Kiki at the back, with Jordan Adeoti protecting the defenders. Seibou Mama will start as an attacking midfielder alongside Seibou Mama, with both behind frontman Steve Mounie.
Neither of these two have been in rich goal-scoring form as of yet, bagging only five goals combined in the AFCON. Benin haven’t even notched a single goal in the two games since the opener, while Morocco appear to be happy just biding their time and hitting once past the opposition goalkeeper. For these reasons, Skybet’s offer of 10/3 for Morocco to win 1-0 looks a solid bet. Morocco are 1/1 to win to nil with Skybet, and that outcome looks very likely based on the evidence so far. Benin will struggle to break down a confident Moroccan side, while Morocco will gladly allow Benin to get wearisome and strike at any point. Another handy bet from Skybet is Morocco to win by exactly one goal at 21/10, and if they do so it will be the fourth time in a row they’ll have come out victorious with just one goal in the difference.