Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - The Walya Antelopes of Ethiopia will play their first preparation match for AFCON 2013 when they host Niger on Sunday at the Addis Ababa Stadium. 31 Ethiopian players including 5 based overseas have been in camp for the last 3 weeks and SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s friendly will serve as a show case for the players as they will be hoping to make the final 23.
Ethiopia braces for Niger friendly
The Niger national team, nicknamed Mena, are expected to arrive Friday evening and will be staying at the Hilton Addis. All the expenses of the team including travel and accommodation will be covered by the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF).
The Niger team qualified for their second successive AFCON final after they upstaged Guinea in the final qualifying round in which they won 2-1 in aggregate. Unlike Ethiopia, they will be in their third friendly match as they had previously played against Senegal at home and away with Morocco. Niger drew 1-1 with Senegal and lost their second friendly against Morocco 3-0.
Former Gabon coach Gernot Rohr took over the Niger team in September and will be looking to improve the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s performance in the away games. The majority of the squad is made of players based in Africa, but also includes some players that play in Europe. Forward Ouwo Moussa Maazou, having played in Belgium, France, and Russia, is expected to be the star of the team and the biggest threat to the Ethiopian defence but reports show that he, along with 2 Gabon-based and 1 Morocco-based players, is yet to join camp in Niamey. The 24 year old striker currently plays for Etoile du Sahel in Tunisia and there is a possibility that he, among others, might join his team mates in Addis.
Ethiopia has confirmed dates of three friendly matches. After playing Niger on Sunday, the Antelopes will host Togo on Thursday, January 3 and four days later will jet-out to the gulf state Qatar for their January 8 game against Tunisia. The vice president of the EFF Mr. Teka Asfaw acknowledged Sports Journalist Mensur Abdulkeni for arranging the friendly matches.
The EFF previously agreed to play with Tanzania and Morocco, but later cancelled. The reasons given were to give a better challenge to the national team as Tanzania, having failed to qualify to AFCON 2013, was not expected to field their main team and to avoid fatigue and injuries as the Morocco game was too close to the start of the tournament.