thumbnail Hello,

Goal.com takes an in depth look at each of the 16 national teams aiming to make their mark on Africa's most popular competition

The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is fast approaching, and the 16 teams that will be aiming to become continental champions have been decided.

The 2013 Afcon takes place from 19 January to February 10, and it is to be held in the 2010 World Cup host nation, South Africa.

History will be written on February 10 at Soccer City in Johannesburg, as the 29th Africa Cup of Nations comes to a climax and a winner is crowned.

Goal.com introduces you to the 16 teams that will be taking part in this highly-anticipated competition. Here we profile the Mena of Niger.

AFCON HISTORY

Best Performance
Round 1 - 2012
Champions
None
Runners-Up
None
Third Place
None
Fourth Place
None

HOW THEY QUALIFIED

Niger were among the 16 teams that enjoyed a bye during the first round of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying by virtue of their participation at the 2012 edition held in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The Mena were pitted against Guinea in the second and final round, bringing home a rather stimulating 1-0 loss from the away fixture played in Conakry and overturning that deficit by two goals in Niamey during the second leg to clinch their second qualification to the Afcon finals.

THE COACH | GERNOT ROHR


Gernot Rohr was hired by the Niger football federation in September 2012 following the departure of Frenchman Rolland Courbis, who was promoted to head the Mena weeks after the end of the 2012 Afcon, where they were defeated 2-0 in their opener by Gabon, then under the management of Rohr.

Rohr’s contract was not renewed after the co-hosts of the 2012 Afcon were knocked out of the competition in the quarter-finals, which officials in Libreville said was due to the coach’s incorrect substitutions during the game against Mali and his vision-less style. However, the Niger FA said that the 59-year-old German was the right person to build the country’s football and give the players a wider exposure, which they lacked during their first appearance.

THE CAPTAIN | MOUSSA MAAZOU


Moussa Maazou was a promising professional footballer when he signed for Belgian side Lokeren in 2008, playing just one season before he was spotted by CSKA Moscow’s scouts, who spurred his move to the Russian club early in 2009 on a €4.8 million deal. However, the 24-year-old striker failed to live up to expectation due to poor form, indolence and indiscipline.

He finally returned to Africa in 2012 to sign for Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia, which some local pundits termed as a career failure. However, he remains one of the best players in the Niger national team and seems indispensable to the technical staff, at least for now.

THE STAR PLAYER | ISSOUFOU BOUBACAR GARBA


Issoufou Boubacar Garba, who was called up to the Niger team in 2011, has been making a visible impact with the group. Despite the Mena’s premature elimination from the 2012 Afcon, Garba was one of the few players that exhibited remarkable skills and stamina in coordinating their attacking and defensive play pattern, with an eye not only on the direction of the ball but on the position of his team-mates.

The 22-year-old midfielder joined Tunisian side Club Africain in July 2012 from the Thai Premier League where he spent one season honing his skills and enjoying better exposure. Officials from his new club said the Nigerien youth was recruited because of his constantly improving ability in ball distribution, dispossessing opposing players and falling back very timely to assist the defence. Local pundits have frequently dubbed him the playmaker of the outfit, but he needs to confirm this in South Africa.

THE EMERGING TALENT | YACOUBA ALI


Yacouba Ali is a forceful striker with enormous pace, dribbling and aerial abilities. After beginning a rather timid career with local side AS Police, he joined Cote d’Ivoire’s Africa Sports in 2010 at age 18, helping the team to clinch the FA Cup a few months after his arrival.

Although he is yet to start notching up regular goals for Niger, Ali remains a promising striker, and combined with his other key duties of setting up goals for fellow players and conserving the ball up front to keep the pressure on the adversary, he is bound to be a great asset if he keeps working hard at club level and with the national team.

PROBABLE LINEUP



(4-4-2)
Saminou
Chicoto, Boubacar, William, Jimmy
Dankwea, Yacouba, Mohamed, Karim
Maazou, Harouna

From the web