The 30 June Stadium is the setting on Wednesday as Senegal and Benin face off in AFCON 2019’s first day of quarter final action. Senegal will probably be the more confident of the two having finished second in Group C behind Algeria during the group stages, three points from the top and three clear of third placed Kenya after winning twice while suffering defeat once. Subsequently, they eliminated Uganda from the Last 16 in a solid 1-0 win. Benin on the other hand, failed to find victory in any of their three group matches, playing out draws in each of their fixtures and bagging only two goals, amassing three points as a result and ending the group phase third from the top. They continued that form into their clash with Morocco, who they eventually knocked out of the tournament via penalties.
Senegal began the AFCON 2019 with a solid victory over Tanzania by two goals to nil, however that was followed by a rather disappointing 1-0 loss at the hands of fellow favourites for the group and gold medal, Algeria. Senegal felt hard done by in that encounter, arguing they should have been rewarded with a penalty which would have rescued a point if they’d found the net. On the last day of group outings, Senegal met Kenya in a game that needed to see them on the right end of the scoreline. Sadio Mane missed a penalty half an hour in, but he later made up for that error by netting a fantastic goal with twenty-minutes remaining after Ismaila Sarr had provided his team with a 1-0 lead. Mane notched his brace as the tie came to a close and that allowed Senegal to progress into the Last 16, where they were matched up against Uganda. Mane was again the hero on that occasion, popping up with the winner fifteen minutes into the affair.
Benin have not quite had the same joy with their results, however they won’t care on jot as they prepare for this mighty task. Beginning with a stalemate versus Ghana in which they took the lead only two minutes after kick off, Benin then played out two goalless draws when playing Guinea-Bissau and Cameroon. Neither of those matches were particularly eventful with none of the sides able to make a breakthrough or even create guilt-edged opportunities, yet Benin still earned just about enough points to see themselves advance to the Last 16. This was a major feat for the nation and it was made even more important when it was announced they’d be playing Morocco, one of the best teams up to now. Benin took a second half advantage through Moise Adilehou, assisted by Cebio Soukou, however star-man Youssef En-Nesyri brought Morocco back on level terms fourteen minutes before the final whistle. Hakim Ziyech missed the spot in the 96th minute of additional time, meaning extra time was certain. Khaled Adenon received a second yellow for Benin and marched off the pitch, and while he may feel he let his teammates down, they definitely showed up during the penalty shootout. Olivier Verdon, David Djigla, Tidjani Anane and Seibou Mama all hit home, ensuring that Benin won 4-1.
Edouard Mendy looks set to miss the remainder of the tournament due to a broken hand and is expected to return to the field in August, which is a huge blow to the squad. We expect Senegal to line up in the 4-2-3-1 that was utilized against Kenya and Uganda, as they ran out victors both times and kept a clean sheet in each. Alfred Gomis should remain as goalkeeper behind Kalidou Koulibaly and Cheikhou Kouyate, while Badou Ndiaye is likely to sit alongside Idrissa Gana Gueye in the centre of midfield. In attack, Sadio Mane, Henri Saivet and Ismaila Sarr will start, supporting M’Baye Niang as a lone striker.
Benin will more than likely attempt to improve on the 3-4-3 that was used last time out versus Morocco, in spite of the fact they actually performed well below par. Thankfully, from their perspective, Benin will have a fully fit camp for this one barring any late injury concerns, and this is how we think they’ll line up. Saturnin Allagbe will begin as number one, protected by defenders Moise Adilehou, Verdon and whoever Michael Dussuyer decides to replace the suspended Khaled Adenon with. A four man midfield will consist of Emmanuel Imorou, Jordan Adeoti, Stephane Sessegnon and Seibou Mama, while Cebio Soukou, Mickael Pote and Jodel Dossou should play as a front line.
Senegal have enjoyed their AFCON campaign so far by scoring plenty of goals and conceding just once, which was against Algeria. With six goals on the board already and a solid bacl line, we can only see one winner here. Benin have found it difficult to get amongst the goals as of yet, netting twice in four matches and shipping three, although they tend to make it tough for the opposition. Due to these facts, we’re going for Senegal to win and BTTS at 4/1 with Skybet. Senegal will be too much for Benin though and Sadio Mane should continue his fantastic goal-scoring form here, so we’re also opting for Senegal to win by exactly two goals at 3/1 with Skybet. As well as that, Skybet have Senegal to win 3-1 at 18/1, which is exactly the outcome that we expect. Benin have scored when necessary so it wouldn’t be a shock if they were to do so again, but Senegal have always found a way to score more.