George Byron firstname.lastname@example.org
NIGER are frantically trying to arrange a last-minute friendly against a top South African professional soccer team in Port Elizabeth this week to put the finishing touches to their preparations for the Orange Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
There had been plans for Niger to play against SA Premier League outfit Platinum Stars on Wednesday at the Westbourne Oval, but there are now doubts as to whether the match will take place.
Niger start their bid for Afcon honours at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday when they clash with fellow West Africans Mali in a Group B match at 8pm.
Shortly after their arrival in South Africa, Niger drew 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso in a match played in Nelspruit last Thursday.
After their first training session at the Westbourne Oval at the weekend, Niger technical director Garba Lawali said the team were adjusting to conditions along the coast.
"We have settled down, but it's a bit cold because we are by the coast and we are struggling to adjust to the food they serve here," Lawali said.
Mali are second favourites to advance from a tough Group B pool which also includes hot favourites Ghana, DR Congo and Mali.
While Mali and Niger have already arrived in the Bay, DR Congo are expected to jet into the city on Wednesday and Ghana will arrive the following day.
Ghana are completing their preparations for the tournament in Abu Dhabi where they thumped Egpyt 3-0 in an impressive display which suggests the Black Stars deserve their billing as group favourites.
They will round off their preparations with a match against Tunisia before flying to South Africa.
Meanwhile, Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah says there is no reason to panic over the injury sustained by Anthony Annan in the win over Egypt.
The star midfielder was brought off 26 minutes into the game after landing awkwardly from a serious challenge. However, Appiah believes the injury is not serious and Annan should be training shortly.
"It's not that big a thing," Appiah said. "He didn't land well but according to the doctor, it's not a big deal. He should be up training soon."
Despite their impressive victory over the Egyptians, the Ghana coach is keeping his team grounded and demanding further improvement ahead of their opening game against DR Congo at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday at 5pm.
The Niger squad which arrived in Port Elizabeth is:
Goalkeepers: Moussa Alzouma (Garde Nationale), Daouda Kassaly (Chippa Utd), Saminou Rabo (Sahel).
Defenders: Ismael Alassane, Kader Amadou and Mohamed Soumaila (Olympic), Mohamed Bachar and Luky James (AS Douane), Mohammed Chikoto (Marsa/TUN), Koffi Dankowa (Zarzis/TUN), Kourouma Fatogoma (Chabab/MAR).
Midfielders: Issoufou Boubacar (clubless), Karim Konate (clubless), Issiakou Koudize (Garde Nationale), Idrissa Laouali (Mangasport/GAB), Amadou Mountari (Le Mans/FRA), Williams N'Gonou (LB 07/SWE), Souleymane Sakou (Olympic), Babacar Talatou (AmaZulu).
Strikers: Kamilou Daouda (Saoura/ALG), Issoufou Dante (Wydad Fes/MAR), Moussa Maazou (Etoile Sahel/TUN), Modibo Sidibe (clubless).