Benin versus Mozambique encounter will make history
LUANDA - Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) history will be made today whatever the result of a Group C clash between Benin and Mozambique in the Angolan coastal city of Benguela.
Victory for either the Beninese Squirrels or Mozambique's Mambas will be their first in the biennial continental showcase, while a draw will give the West Africans their first point ever.
Not that a share of the points will satisfy either minnow, with a win needed to have any chance of mocking a form book that suggests Nigeria and defending champions Egypt will cruise into the quarterfinals.
Mozambique, back at the Afcon after a 12-year absence, need to overcome disappointing warm-up results with a home loss to Malawi followed by further reverses against Zambia and Gabon.
The Snakes have proved a match for the best on their artificial Maputo pitch but their away form is far less impressive, suggesting the three-time qualifiers will struggle in the Afcon.
Dutch coach Mart Nooij, who has received widespread praise from his squad for lifting Mozambique out of the football doldrums, is not convinced travel sickness will upset his team.
"In Angola there will be 14 teams playing away, which makes the refereeing and conditions similar for all the teams and I would be delighted with a quarterfinals place," he said.
Veteran striker and captain Manuel "Tico Tico" Bucuane remains an inspirational figure for Mozambique while much is expected of young midfield destroyer Simao Mate from Greek giants Panathinaikos.
Just qualifying was a memorable achievement for the tiny West African state of Benin, who eliminated 2006 World Cup qualifiers Angola in the second round of 2010 qualifiers and finished above Mali in third place.
Benin are guided by pragmatic Frenchman Michel Dussuyer, whose key players are both based in France: Paris Saint Germain midfielder Stephane Sessegnon and Metz striker Razak Omotoyossi. - Sapa