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2023 U-20 AFCON Qualifying: Benin outlasts Burkina Faso in WAFU-B semifinal for spot in final tournament

Benin are off to Africa’s under-20 showcase competition for the first time since 2013 following their 2-1 victory over Burkina Faso after extra time in the semifinals of the WAFU-Zone B qualifying tournament. After a 0-0 draw in regulation, Tamimou Ouorou opened the scoring for Benin and Djalilou Ibrahim doubled the lead before Les Écureuils held off a late charge from Burkina Faso to secure their spot in the final and most importantly a ticket to the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The match was an even and physical affair with multiple stoppages due to heavy collisions as both teams fought hard for a spot in Egypt. Benin came closest to scoring on the half hour mark when Rabiou Sankamao curled an excellent free kick from 25 yards out that touched the crossbar on its way over. Burkina Faso had a couple of looks themselves before halftime with star striker and captain Abdel Rachid Zagre’s header from eight yards out going right at Benin goalkeeper Dava Agossa in the 33rd minute.

Zagre provided the most dangerous threat to Les Écureuils and nearly put the Burkinabé team in the lead when his 57th minute shot from outside the box bounced off the outside of the post and wide. Both teams had a couple of half chances in the second half but regulation ended in a scoreless stalemate, requiring extra time to separate the sides.

Both teams looked tired in the extra period but Benin kept their enthusiasm and took a deserved lead in the 95th minute. Samidou Bawa got free on the right wing and his low cross found its way through the Burkinabé defense to find Ouorou, who beat goalkeeper Phillipe Mare to the ball and lashed his shot into the goal. Five minutes into the second half of extra time the match looked settled when Ibrahim’s persistent run resulted in a cross that deflected past Mare at his near post, but Ibrahim took his shirt off to celebrate and received a second yellow card.

Burkina Faso made one last push and got a goal back when a long ball was headed across from the right wing to the far post for a shot that deflected past Agossa. However, Benin prevailed and celebrated a massive and well earned spot in the final where they will face the winner of Ivory Coast-Nigeria.

Highlights of the first semifinal are below.

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