For many decades, the ties between Nigeria and its neighboring country, Benin Republic, has extended beyond cross-border trade and, in recent times, included sports.

Therefore, finding a Nigerian playing for the national football team of the Benin Republic is no longer news.

The football part, regardless of how insignificant it might seem, comes to the fore again as Nigeria face their West African neighbours on Monday (today) in a crucial 2026 World Cup qualifier at their adopted home ground in Ivory Coast, the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium.

Before now, there have been the likes of Razak Omotoyosi, former Enyimba man Muri Ogunbiyi and Jonas Oketola featuring for Benin.

Again, Benin coach, Genort Rohr, was in charge of Nigeria for six years and he also has a Nigerian assistant, Tunde Adelakun.

Below are the two players of Nigerian descent in their current squad who can spring surprises when they face Nigeria today as well as Genort Rohr’s assistant…

Junior Olaitan (Troyes, France)

Attacking midfielder Olaitan was born in Benin to a Nigerian father and a Beninese mother. He debuted with the Benin national team in a 1-0 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification win over Madagascar on September 2, 2021.

Like many other Nigerian players who sought greener pastures in Benin Republic, Olaitan began his senior career with the Beninese club Ayéma Adjarra, where he scored 10 goals in 28 matches during the 2020–21 season. He then moved to France in January 2022.

He played the entire 90 minutes in their game against Rwanda last Thursday and he is primed to start against Nigeria, the country of his father today.

In 15 appearances for the Squirrels, he has one goal.

Aiyegun, born in Lagos to a Nigerian father and a Beninese mother, received his first call-up to the Benin national team for a series of friendly matches in March 2022.

The striker made his debut in Benin’s 4-0 friendly victory over Liberia on March 24, 2022, marking his first appearance with a goal.

The 25-year-old has had difficulty adapting to life in France after joining Lorient from FC Zurich, where he made headlines with his explosive play. In 19 Ligue 1 games, Aiyegun only boasts two goals.

The forward knows how to get into good positions inside the box and his intelligence with space and eye for a pass also makes him an attractive option playing behind the main striker.

Since making his Benin debut in 2022, Aiyegun has scored three goals in 10 games for the Squirrels.

In their previous game against Rwanda last Thursday, he came on as a second half substitute and played 21 minutes.

Tunde Adelakun (Assistant coach)

Having worked with Rohr during his stint with Nigeria as an assistant coach in charge of scouting, Adelakun has continued to work with the Franco-German coach and hopes to use his knowledge of the Nigerian team to their advantage.

Benin Republic are currently third in the group with four points, one point above fifth-placed Nigeria and one point behind table toppers Lesotho.

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