ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) - Holders Cameroon were held 0-0 by Benin on Tuesday, their second successive goalless draw at the Africa Cup of Nations, pushing them into a last-16 tie against Nigeria while their opponents made it past the group stage for the first time.
Cameroon’s Yaya Banana headed against the bar late on but it was a toothless performance by the Indomitable Lions who had already qualified from Group F but were edged into second place on goals scored by Ghana, who beat Guinea Bissau 2-0.
Benin, who are at the finals for the fourth time but have still not won a match, drew all three games, enough to secure a place in the knockout stage as one of the best third-placed teams. Ghana and Cameroon finished level on five points.
“I am very satisfied because we are in the next round although we are disappointed because we wanted to win the match,” said Cameroon’s Dutch coach Clarence Seedorf.
“We have to improve a few details, especially in the last part of the field, to be a bit smarter, create more chances,” he added. “That is football, we need to accept that the opponents did a good job in defending, we pushed the whole match.”
His opposite number Michael Dussuyer, a Cup of Nations stalwart coaching his third different side in the African tournament, admitted his team had set out for a draw.
“Everybody has made a sacrifice for tonight because we were looking for this point, everybody has fought hard,” said the Frenchman.
“We didn’t play our best football tonight. We defended well, we tried to reduce the spaces and stop them exploiting their speed in attack.”
It was pretty much all Cameroon in the first half.
Karl Toko Ekambi had a clear chance after five minutes but sent his header over the bar after rising to meet Collings Fai’s cross.
Ambroise Oyongo saw his low drive tipped past the post by Saturnin Allagbe, who also did well to tip away a low drive from Eric Choupo-Moting, while Oyongo was not far away with a rising drive just before halftime.
Benin offered little threat although a low free kick into their area caused panic as Oyongo was forced to dive between two defenders to intercept before keeper Andre Onana grabbed the ball.
The second half became increasingly scrappy. Cameroon tried to get around the massed Benin defence by chipping balls over the top but the ploy did not work and they began to run out of ideas.
Benin, sensing they were near the point they needed, fell back into defence and had only one real scare when substitute Banana headed against the bar from Pierre Kunde Malong’s cross.
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Alison Williams and Ken Ferris