Surprise package Benin gain respect


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Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly says the Teranga Lions are not surprised by the performance of quarter-final opponents Benin in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Michel Dussuyer’s team knocked out north African giants Morocco on penalties to reach this stage of the tournament for the first time in their history. The Squirrels had previously played out a 2-2 stalemate with Ghana before forcing Guinea-Bissau and reigning champions Cameroon to goalless draws to qualify for the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams.

Despite their status in the continent, Senegal have never won the Africa Cup of Nations and Napoli defender Koulibaly insists they will be giving maximum respect to their next opponents, having kept close tabs on Benin since the tournament began.

“People see Benin as a surprise package, no. We have been observing them since the group stage,” he told Goal. “They have a compact team and play very well. They have been able to upset top teams including Morocco.”

Senegal are desperate to go one better than the 2002 edition when they finished as runners-up to Cameroon. With host nation and pre-tournament favourites Egypt gone already, they may sense an opportunity but Koulibaly is not about to look too far ahead.

“We will do our best to be able to overcome them in our next game,” he added. “We will remain calm as always. We will prepare for the game against Benin mentally and physically and give our best to win and put smile on the faces of Senegalese.”

Senegal are 1.44 to overcome Benin, who are 8.50 to win and 4.20 to record a fifth successive draw at the end of 90 minutes.

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