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The Lions May Roar Into The Quaters.

The 1976 winners of the African Cup of Nations, the Atlas Lions of Morocco is stepping out on Friday at 5pm to open the 2019 Round of 16 stages with an intimidating record against the Squirrels of Benin Republic. Appearing the 17th time, the team was runners-up in 2014; Bronze medalist in 1980 at Lagos; twice semifinalists 1986 and 1988 as well as quarterfinalist in 2017. Apart from the current championship, Morocco played 61 games in the entire history of AFCON tournament, won21; drew 22; lost 18 scored 70 goals and conceded 57.
The Squirrels of Benin Republic are in their 4th appearance even from when their country had the name Dahomey. They have never gone beyond the group stages. In fact, Benin played 9 games in AFCON history, never won a single game, drew once, scored 4 goals and conceded 20 so CAF is having them on goals deficit list for they are goals debtor.
Presently, Morocco won all the three matches at the group stage scoring thrice and with a clean slate. Morocco nipped Namibia 1-0, humbled the mighty Elephants of Ivory Coast 1-0 and then piped the Bafana Bafana of South Africa 1-0. Benin drew all their three games. Scored twice and conceded two. No gain no loss. Pundits were surprised that Benin could hold Ghana 2-2; played 0-0 with irregular team at the mundial like them, Guinea Bissau and again fought to hold the fearsome Lions of Cameroon goalless.
They met at the group stage in 2004 and Morocco shot down the Squirrels 4-0. It was worst when they had a friendly recently as Morocco took them to the slaughter slab 6-1. Morocco has no top scorer for now in Egypt but Pote has scored twice for Benin which he got against Ghana. We are still waiting for the three Moroccan attackers to explode in Egypt. They are Hakim Ziyech, Nordin Aurabat and Youssef En-Nesyri who has a goal to his credit. Benin’s talisman Steve Mounie is still searching for his first goal.
Statistics shows Moroccan superiority. They had 19 shots on target to Benin’s 6; 180 ball possession to 137 but 11 corner kicks to 15. Benin should expect more of the shots on target, an attempt to take advantage on rebounds and Morocco will definitely dictate pace of the game with their holding to the ball, spraying passes and doing the counter attack. Benin players shoot miserably in front of goal.
This match has no business going into extra time. Lions of Morocco will roar into the quarters to meet winners between Senegal and Uganda.
Teranga Lions of Senegal match with the Ugandan Cranes paint the same picture as the Morocco v Benin encounter. The troublesome Lions are coming to the party for the 15th time with their best achievement as runner-up in 2002 and 2012. They were semifinalist in 1965, 1990 and 2006; quarterfinalists in 1992, 1994, 2004 and the last championship in 2017. They have played 49 matches in AFCON, won 16, drew 12, lost 21 scored 55 and conceded 50. They have three key players to watch, Sadio Mane of Liverpool who scored twice against Kenya; Keita Balde who plays for Inter Milan and Kaldou Koulibaly of Napoli.
Uganda is in a 7th appearance, was runners-up in1978 and semifinalist in 1972 while the rest was groping at group stages. Uganda played 19 matches in AFCON won 3, Drew 2, Lost 14, scored 18 and conceded 34 so CAF is holding them too as goal debtors. That shows they have lived with a basket defense. The team however this year has an experienced, wonderful and agile goalkeeper and captain in Dennis Onyango who was dizzy and substituted in the last match with Egypt but fit to be back in goal. There is also Emmanuel Okwi who scored two goals against Congo and Zimbabwe as well as their attacking midfielder, Farouk Miye.
As the two teams file out at 8pm on Friday, we will want to know the latest between them, they met 7 times with each team winning twice and three draws. Uganda won her first match 2-0; played 1-1 with Zimbabwe and lost to Egypt 0-2 to become one of the lucky losers with 3 points. Senegal won Tanzania 2-0; lost to Algeria 0-1 and defeated Kenya 3-0 to come second in their group.
Apart from the corner kick record that has a query for Uganda has 44 in three games far above any other team, whereas Senegal has 17; shots on target which is essential shows 12 to 22 of Senegal and ball possession is 138 to 186 so you know who is lord in the game. Scoring 3 goals and conceding 3 shows a not so prolific attack and a weak defense for Uganda and the rampaging Lions may up their game with them. Senegal scored 5 goals and conceded only one means it will be tough for the Cranes of Uganda to go through the eye of a needle. The foul records are 47 to 49 and yellows are 4 to 4. Both play rough and an eagle eye ref will flash his cards.
On the scale of football, we may not go into extra time if the Senegalese can keep their cool because the pressure is on them to win. One of my paddies in football dismiss an action packed game saying, “Senegal be them senior brother in football, no shaking we go chop Senegal bread after the match”. Senegal bread is long baked bread that was common in many Nigerian homes in the 60s. He is correct. Senegal is rated number 23 in the world by FIFA and first in Africa while Uganda is rated 79 in the world and 14th in Africa.


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