Sessegnon signals Benin belief
© AFP
We still have a lot of progress to make if we are to reach the standard of teams like Angola. These matches will be ideal with that in mind
Benin's Stephane Sessegnon is not getting carried away ahead of South Africa 2010 qualifiers against Angola, Uganda and Niger.

Most players would be grateful for the talent to do one thing very well, but a select breed possess such a complete bag of tricks they can shine in any position. Stephane Sessegnon is one of the lucky few.

Trained to operate as a holding midfielder back in his native Benin, and a multifunctional midfielder when he arrived in France to join Creteil in 2004, the youngster has already been fielded in three different positions since signing for Le Mans in 2006.

Brought in as a deep-lying playmaker, Sessegnon was then moved to the right by Frederic Hantz halfway through 2007, before spending the entire 2007/08 campaign as a No10 under new coach Rudi Garcia. "I'm pretty satisfied with my season," he told FIFA.com. "I was able to increase my range of skills and progress so much faster. It's fun to play further up the pitch. I get a lot of pleasure from taking part in attacks."

As the free electron roaming behind two forwards, Sessegnon played a crucial role in what proved to be an excellent season for Le Mans, who finished ninth in France's top flight, just five points out of the European places. Overall, his personal tally read six goals and six assists.

That kind of form could help Benin put their unflattering CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2008 record behind them once and for all. The Squirrels were eliminated after three consecutive defeats in the first round (scoring one goal and conceding seven), however Sessegnon believes things could have been worse.

"I don't look back at that competition as a huge disappointment," he said. "We expected to suffer a lot more than that. Up against such big teams as Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Mali, I think we didn't come out of it too badly."

The road to South Africa
He also feels the team learnt from the experience, thanks to such close contact with players as gifted as Didier Drogba, John Obi Mikel and Frederic Kanoute. But the time for dwelling on the past is over, and it is to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ that everyone must now look.

Benin's Group 3 qualifying campaign is fast approaching, with their opening match taking them to Luanda to face Angola on 1 June, ahead of further tests against fellow section rivals Uganda and Niger. "I reckon our group is pretty open," said Sessegnon. "We'll have to play with lots of humility but we'll have a chance."

That said, the player born on 1 June 1984 in Allahe, Benin, is not expecting the Angolans to allow him a stress-free birthday. " Stephane Sessegnon is not getting carried away ahead of South Africa 2010 qualifiers against Angola, Uganda and Niger."> We still have a lot of progress to make if we are to reach the standard of teams like Angola. These matches will be ideal with that in mind. Our team is still young," he added.

As unpredictable in conversation as he is on the pitch, Sessegnon does not allow the impression of caution to reign too long before underlining the Squirrels' ambitions. "Above all, our goal will be to qualify for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations," he said.

"And to carry on our evolution step by step. But of course we'll go at it full pelt if there's a chance of reaching South Africa. First place could be beyond us, but we can figure among the best of the second-placed sides."

With their flexible rising star believing they can do it, Benin ought to find that nothing is impossible.