CAIRO (Reuters) – Steve Mounie scored a hat-trick as Benin completed their African Cup of Nations preparations with a 3-1 win over fellow finalists Mauritania on Tuesday but despite the confidence-boosting victory coach Michel Dussuyer is keeping expectations low.
Mounie’s goals in Marrakech came in the 38th, 66th and 75th minutes. The 24-year-old only scored two last season for Huddersfield as they were relegated from the Premier League.
Benin, squeezed between Nigeria and Togo on the west coast of the continent, have been to three previous finals in 2004, 2008 and 2010 but lost eight of their nine group matches.
The other they drew 2-2 with Mozambique in Angola nine years ago.
“Step number one is to win a match. Benin has never achieved this before in the finals,” Dussuyer told reporters after completing their pre-tournament preparations in Morocco.
“Step number two is to qualify to the round of 16, and goal number three is to come home as late as possible.”
Benin are in Group F in Egypt and open their campaign against Ghana in Ismailia next Tuesday. They also face holders Cameroon and fellow outsiders Guinea Bissau.
“It’s exciting to confront big nations like that. It is also exciting to participate in the finals of the African Cup of Nations. So there is no apprehension,” Dussuyer added.
“There’s just the desire to have good matches against these teams, to create problems for them and to have positive results that would allow us to achieve the goals. That will come from the work we have done and also our state of mind.
“We know we do not have the strength of Cameroon or Ghana but we know are able to compete with big teams,” he said.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Peter Rutherford)