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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 December 2007, 16:59 GMT
Boco says Benin has no fear
Benin and Accrington Stanley midfielder Romauld Boco
Romauld Boco believes Benin will hold their own against Nigeria and Ivory Coast

Benin has a hard task in the upcoming 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.

If the Squirrels are to emerge from the group stages for the first time in their history, they will have to overcome Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Mali in the 2008 edition's Group of Death.

But Benin midfielder Romauld Boco says his team have nothing to fear.

"I think it's a good draw for us," the 22-year-old told BBC Sport.

"We've played against good teams before.

"We've played against Ivory Coast and Cameroon and every one of our players had a good experience against those teams.

"We know we have to qualify and have nothing to lose."

Benin beat Sierra Leone 2-0 to finish second in Group 9 ahead of Togo to qualify for the continent's biannual showpiece tournament.

This caused huge rejoicing in the tiny West African country.

Over 200,000 fans turned up at the airport to welcome the team on their return from Freetown.

Romauld, bottom left, with the rest of the Benin national team
The Squirrels have a tough task in Group B in the Africa Cup of Nations

If the Squirrels are to inspire rejoicing on a similar scale during January's Finals they may have to recall the feats of side who competed at the 2005 Africa Youth Championships.

Boco was part of that Benin youth side who faced those same three teams that the senior side will take on in Group B in Sekondi.

"Yes, it was unbelievable," Boco recalled.

"When you are hosting a tournament, you should have an easy group, but we were in the group of death.

"We lost 3-0 in the first game against Nigeria.

"After that we did well against Ivory Coast and Mali and qualified for the World Cup."

On the pitch, the 2005 African Youth Championships was a good tournament for the Junior Squirrels.

They finished in third place and became the first Benin side to compete on the world stage later that year.

Romauld Boco in action for Accrington Stanley
We know we have to qualify and have nothing to lose.
Benin and Accrington Stanley midfielder, Romauld Boco

But that tournament will forever be scarred with the memory of a terrible tragedy.

The Benin goalkeeper Youssoufou Samiou died after being attacked outside the team hotel just a couple of days after the tournament started.

"It was hard for us because he was a good lad," Boco said.

"Some people asked him for his mobile phone.

"He didn't want to hand it over.

"And they attacked him until he had eight fractures in his head.

"I and another friend found him and I cried because I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Just one day after Samiou's death, the Junior Squirrels had to face Ivory Coast in their second game of the continental youth tournament.

"When we played then, it was like 15 men against 11," Boco recounted.

"It's like he was with us.

"And we did very well and we won 4-1."

No doubt, the memory of Samiou will help spur on the Squirrels in Ghana next year.

Benin take on the world
09 Jun 05 |  African
Boco signs long-term Stanley deal
12 Feb 07 |  Accrington Stanley
Samiou warned of dangers
22 Jan 05 |  African


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