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October 09, 2010

Niger Defeats African Champions Egypt

by Scott Stearns

In a weekend of second-round qualifiers for the 2012 African Cup of Nations, no result was more surprising than Niger's 1-0 upset of reigning African champions Egypt.  

Football fans in Niger's capital celebrated throughout the night, blowing horns and singing the praises of their Menas' win over the Pharaohs of Egypt.

It was a stunning upset, even for the most loyal of Niger's football faithful.  FIFA ranks Egypt 9th in the world. Niger: 154th.

Niamey's 35,000 seat Stade Général Seyni Kountché was full long before the mid-afternoon kick-off under a blistering sun.

Striker Ouwa Moussa Maazou scored the only goal in the first half, getting past Egyptian defender Mohamed Abel Shafy who failed to clear.  Goalkeeper Essam el-Hadary charged Maazou, but the 22-year-old striker - who is on loan from French club Bordeaux - slipped the ball past him into the net.

Egypt pressed for the equalizer at the start of the second half, but rarely got much past midfield.  Their best chance came off a free kick in the 76th minute.  But Mahmoud Fathallah was ruled offside.

Maazou's goal and solid defense gives Niger three points in Group G and drops Egypt to the bottom of the group with only one point after two matches, following their opening 1-1 draw with Sierra Leone in Cairo.

It was an inauspicious start for the record seven-time continental champions, who next play South Africa in Johannesburg.  Niger hosts Sierra Leone as it pushes to qualify for the 2012 tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.