Niger plan to leave positive impression on Cup debut

Reuters, Saturday 21 Jan 2012

Aided in their qualifying campaign by South Africa's miscalculated satisfaction with a draw on the final day, Niger intend to make the most of their first appearance in the continental cup

Harouna Doula
Niger coach Harouna Doula

African Nations Cup debutants Niger are under no illusions about their chances of success at the tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea but aim to leave a positive impression, team advisor Roland Courbis has said.

“We are firmly determined to play an excellent tournament. We want to have a Nations Cup where we leave a good impression,” the former Olympique Marseille coach told reporters on the opening day of the 16-nation event on Saturday.

Niger play co-hosts Gabon in their first Group C match on Monday and then face even more testing games against former winners Morocco and Tunisia in the four-team pool.

“Nobody has us as favourites but I can assure you we won’t finish fifth in our group,” joked the Frenchman, who has been preparing the team alongside coach Harouna Doula.

“But we have a squad that is capable of doing well here.”

The west Africans reached the finals when South Africa miscalculated the permutations on the final day of qualifiers in October and played for a home draw in their last fixture when they should have set out to win.

With three teams level on points, Niger won the group courtesy of head-to-head results against South Africa and Sierra Leone but did lose all of their away games in the preliminaries and have rarely performed well outside their country.

Courbis, jailed in France for transfer irregularities in 2007, joined the Niger squad in December to aid the relatively inexperienced Doula.

“I’ve been very honoured to be able to aid them in their ambition of competing with distinction in the Nations Cup,” he added as Niger continued preparations for their opening match in Libreville.

“For me, this tournament is one of the most important in world football and it is good to be among such passion for the game.

“It is also good experience for players who have World Cup qualifiers coming up later this year. I have seen a lot of progress from them already.”

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