Dmitry Korotayev/Getty Images
It's a real shame that the team that managed to overcome Egypt and qualify from Egypt's ACON qualification group is now set for elimination after losses to Gabon and Tunisia.
To be fair, Niger haven't played bad. In fact, they were quite unlikely to lose to Tunisia after an 89th minute goal from Issam Jemaa. But that doesn't change the fact that this shows just how poor Egypt must've been not to qualify (which, as an Egyptian, obviously hurts).
But I digress. Niger is a small country who've never competed in an ACON or World Cup, and have already accomplished a lot just to get to this stage.
They made it mainly through the exploits of their best player, Moussa Maazou.
At one point, Maazou looked set to become a fearsome African striker in the mold of a Didier Drogba or Amr Zaki (for the six or so months that he was on top of his game). He was tall, big and strong—three of the best characteristics you'll want in a center-forward.
But obviously, Maazou wasn't the complete package, and after failing to take Russia by storm, Maazou was loaned out to former team AS Monaco.
He had a good spell with the team, scoring five times in 18 league appearances. But from there it went downhill, and he has failed to find stability at the club level since.
That hasn't stopped Maazou from being Niger's key man though. On the path to ACON qualification, Maazou scored two crucial winners, including one against Egypt, that earned Niger six of the nine points they needed to qualify.
At 23 years of age, Maazou still has time to get himself back on track, but needs to act fast before he falls out of favor with European clubs and is forced to operate in the lower divisions or return home.
As for Niger, they've already been mathematically eliminated, but will go out with their heads held high in what was not a completely poor showing in their first ever international tournament.