By on Jan 13, 2013 with Comments 1
The Menas are historically one of the poorest sides of African football, both on and off the field. As a nation, Niger has struggled with poor education and poverty of its people, severe lack of infrastructure and health care, and environmental degradation. These factors have naturally affected the football team’s progression throughout the years. Due to their financial concerns, Niger have pulled out of international tournaments on more than one occasion and had they made it to the African Cup of Nations in 2010, the Niger FA planned to turn to numerous fundraising efforts to try and pay for the trip to Angola.
Niger have only ever qualified once for the ACN, and that was for last year’s championships, where they were knocked out at the group stages without a point to their name but their performances had significantly improved by the end of their journey and gave Nigerien football hope for the future.
How Did They Qualify?
By knocking out Guinea, ranked 31 places above them in the FIFA rankings. Guinea won the home leg as expected as Niger are notoriously poor away from home but only 1-0, thanks to the Menas’ goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly, who turned in a heroic performance to keep the scoreline down.
Niger won the second leg 2-0, with goals from Chicoto Mohamed and Issoufou Boubacar Garba in the last 15 minutes of the match making history and sending Niger to the 2013 tournament.
Gernot Rohr took over from Rolland Courbis in September 2012, just before the qualifiers against Guinea. Rohr was a centre back during his playing days and spent his majority of his career with French side Bordeaux, retiring in 1989 with the club. He started his managerial career with Bordeaux too, in 1990. He stayed with the club until 1996, with the probable highlight of the time in charge was taking the club to the UEFA Cup Final in his last season.
Rohr went on to manage Creteil, Nice, Young Boys, Ajaccio, Étoile Sportive du Sahel and Nantes, before moving into international management with Gabon in 2010. He managed Gabon in last year’s tournament before leaving the role.
Moussa Maâzou is the national captain and probably their biggest name. At the age of just 24, it’s a lot of pressure to put on such young shoulders, but the nomadic striker can handle it. Starting his career with Niger’s Army club, ASFAN of Niamey, 48 goals in 79 games earned him a move to Belgians Lokeren.
After 12 goals in 25 games, he earned a big move to CSKA Moscow, but only played 12 games for them in a three year period, spending most of that time on loan to Belgian & French clubs. He currently plays for Étoile Sportive du Sahel and is scoring goals again, hitting a rich vein of form just in time for the tournament.
Kassaly Daouda has been Niger’s starting goalkeeper in 2002 and has earned numerous accolades for his performances between the sticks over the years, including Niger Player Of The Year in 2008. It was mentioned earlier how important he is to the team, and he has grabbed victories for Niger on occasions where the team simply haven’t deserved it. The team will need Kassaly to be in imperious form to get anything from their games.
Kader Amadou has been a mainstay in defence for Niger, playing in the centre of defence but occasionally deployed at right back. He’s a big physical player and his versatility can only be useful during the tournament.
How Far Will They Go?
Not very. Bottom of the group for me, and Niger will leave the ACN still looking for their first point in the tournament. The team are hard working but unfortunately very short on experience and talent. The only thing I see in their favour is Port Elizabeth (where they play all their group stage games) in similar in altitude to Niger, and they always perform well at home.
Despite this, they will badly struggle.
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