Niger secured a ticket for the quarter-final of the 2022 TotalEnergies African Nations Championship (CHAN) after a shock 1-0 win over Cameroon on Tuesday.
Soumaila Badamassi was the hero for the Menas in their final Group E clash at the Miloud Hadefi Stadium in the Algerian city of Oran.
The midfielder came off the bench to score a stunning free-kick that slightly deflected off the wall to leave goalkeeper Marcelin Mbahbi completely beaten to spark wild jubilation.
The victory ensured that the Menas finished top of Group E and advance to their second-ever quarter-final of the tournament meant exclusively for home-based players.
The two sides came into the contest with equal chances of reaching the quarter-final and Niger demonstrated their desire early in the game.
The Mena, who played a goalless draw against Congo in their first game of the group, had a positive start by forcing Cameroon’s center-back Che Malone to pick the first booking less than a minute after kick-off.
Niger’s defence stayed focused and Abdoul-Nasser Garba made a fine tackle to stop Harrison Djonkep from masterminding a counter attack before Jerome Ngom fired the resultant free-kick narrowly wide of goalkeeper Mahamadou Djibo’s goal.
Moments later, the first real chance of the game fell to the Nigeriens with midfielder Imarana Dan forcing a save from goalkeeper Marcelin Mbahbi.
Djonkep became the Indomitable Lions’ live wire down the left flank and was constantly targeted by Adamou Djibo for infringements.
Niger had one last chance in the first half when Bilyamine Moussa charged into Cameroon’s 18 yards box but was sandwiched by Saidou Ibrahim and Mbahbi.
Cameroon came back from the break looking more determined with Jerome Ngom Mbekeli swinging in a cross from the right but there was no Cameroonian heads to guide the ball on target.
Both coaches resorted to their substitutes to helped them to the break the deadlock with both sides making several substutions.
The Mena multiplied onslaught on the Cameroon’s defence, and it paid off at the 69 minute when Salissou Maazou was fouled at the edge of the Cameroon area by Prince Junior Sime.
Substitute Badamassi stepped up and fired a shot which took a deflection off Etta Bawak, and went past Mbahbi, giving Niger the lead.
Cameroon stepped up the tempo in the last quarter of the game, with Ramses Donfack finding space repeatedly in Niger’s defence, but captain Boureima Katkore marshalled the backline well to stop Cameroon.
The win means Niger finish top of the three-team group with four points, ahead of Cameroon and Congo.
The Mena, in their fourth CHAN tournament appearance, reach the quarter-final for the second time after their showing in 2018.
They will now face the Black Galaxies of Ghana in the quarter-final on Saturday at the Miloud Hadefi stadium in Oran.