Factbox on African Nations Cup finalists Niger (Group C):
African Nations Cup record
Previous appearances in finals: none
Coach: Harouna Doula Gabde, a former international full back, took on the job in 2009 but has no profile outside of Niger. He was in charge of his country's surprise qualification for the African Nations Championship in Sudan last year - the tournament for home-based players only - and then oversaw their remarkable qualification to the 2012 Nations Cup finals. His lack of experience prompted the Niger federation to appoint veteran French coach Rolland Courbis to help him, ostensibly as an advisor but it is likely that the former Girondins Bordeaux and Olympique Marseille coach will make all the key decisions at the Nations Cup finals.
Moussa Maazou (Zulte-Waregem) Age: 23. Pos: Forward
Bulldozing forward whose has been the country's major export to Europe, playing at Bordeaux and Monaco in the French league and CSKA Moscow in Russia, but is now stuck in the anonymity of Belgium where his club career seems to be stagnating. His goals against Egypt and South Africa in the qualifiers proved the catalyst for Niger's surprise qualification.
Daouda Kassaly (Coton Sport). Age: 28 Pos: Goalkeeper
Played for Cameroon club Coton Sport in the 2007 African Champions League and has four league titles with the club. Previously, he was also a national champion in Niger with Sahel SC. A proposed transfer to Rapid Bucharest fell through two years ago.
Kamilou Daouda (CS Sfaxien). Age: 23 Pos: Forward
Well-travelled striker who has been a regular in the qualifying competition for his country. There is some doubt over his official age because he went to Cameroon in 2005 after several domestic achievements, ostensibly still a teenager. Since then, he transferred to Al Ittihad in Libya but left when the league stopped there last March because of the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi's regime. Signed at the start of the season for CS Sfaxien in Tunisia.
FIFA world ranking Dec 2011: 97th
Prospects: Niger secured qualification in fortuitous circumstances, when favourites South Africa misjudged the permutations needed to win the preliminary pool, and will likely find themselves well out of their depth at the Nations Cup. They lost all their away matches in the qualifiers and while they have made their home ground in Niamey a tough place for opponents in recent times, they have no track record on the road or in major tournaments. They are also arguably in the toughest group in the first round.
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