Saturday’s host will be without their talismanic skipper when they face Nigeria in Porto Novo, but a tough clash is still expected from a side unbeaten at home in almost a decade
Former Super Eagles spokesperson is confident that in Gernot Rohr, the Nigerian national team has an experienced coach who can guide his men past any difficult challenge the Benin Republic will present on Saturday.
The Super Eagles will trade tackles with the Squirrels later today, with the winner of that tie guaranteed a spot in next year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament to be hosted by Cameroon.
Despite the visitors being slight favourites ahead of the crucial qualifier, Benin, undefeated on home soil in eight years, will likely pose many problems for the three-time African champions.
It would have been even more challenging for Nigeria had the Squirrels head coach Michel Dussuyer not surprisingly leave out captain Stephane Sessègnon.
The former PSG forward is Benin’s all-time top scorer and appearance maker with 24 international goals in 83 matches.
Interestingly, Sessègnon’s last strike for the Squirrels came against Nigeria in a 2-1 away loss on matchday one of this qualifying round.
But having been without a club since leaving Turkey’s Gençlerbirliği last year, the 36-year-old was not included in the 23-man squad preparing to outwit the Super Eagles in Porto Novo.
Ibitoye admits Sessegnon will be a big miss for the tiny West African nation, but he is wary of the threats that still abound inside the Beninoise team.
“We know Sessègnon very well. We’ve seen him and know him from his days in the English Premier League,” Ibitoye told the Punch.
“He is a top player, and his absence will be a big miss for them. But it is a very tricky one because there are some other players that we don’t know of that could be more dangerous than Sessègnon lurking around the corner.”
However, the former spokesman strongly believes the coach would have prepared well for this encounter, and he’s already likely with a plan to nullify Benin’s threats.
Ibitoye added: “But the good thing about the Super Eagles’ setup is that the coach is very thorough with preparation for games like this.
“I am sure his scouts would have monitored not just our players but the players we would be playing against in the qualifying games.
“So, I am sure we have tabs on all the players available to Benin Republic, but the fact that Sessègnon won’t be there doesn’t change anything because they will still be as dangerous as they can.”
Nigeria boast a decent record against their next-door neighbours, winning 12 and losing one of their previous 15 matches against the Squirrels.