Niger goalkeeper Daouda Kassaly talks to Cafonline.com about his team's preparations and expectations for the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations. The Chippa United shot-stopper also talks about playing in front his club fans amongst others related to the tournament. Below are details of his interview with Cafonline.com;
Cafonline.com: How prepared are you for the upcoming Orange Africa Cup of Nations?
Daouda Kassaly: I enjoyed good preparation especially playing in the South African Premier Soccer League (PSL), which in my opinion is the strongest league in Africa. I also played several games with my national team against highly-rated teams like Guinea and Senegal, without conceding a goal.
How vital will the experience of your maiden appearance at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations be for this tournament?
Playing in the 2012 Orange Africa Cup of Nations has been a positive experience and it will be put to bear in South Africa. The objective of the entire team is different compared to last year's and so are my personal targets. I will be less nervous and highly motivated this time round.
What do you make of your chances in the same group with Ghana, DR Congo and Mali?
Each of the teams stand an equal chance and we will fight to qualify to the next round. Our focus is much different as we are better motivated now backed by the entire country especially our President, Issoufou Mahamadou, who doled out a substantial financial support towards our preparations.
You play in South Africa for Chippa United. How does it feel playing the Orange Africa Cup of Nations in a familiar country?
It's a good feeling. It's like playing in Niger as I am used to all the stadia and I know the culture as well. It is also an extra motivation for me after reading recently that Chippa United Supporters will be travelling to Port Elizabeth to support Niger. I will forever appreciate their efforts and I thank chairman of the club, Simon Mpengesi for the opportunity to play for Chippa United.
You have had an excellent season so far and how much will that performance add to your team's chances?
Positive performances always boost confidence but I will also be cautious as it's not the same competition. The Africa Cup of Nations is a tournament that can change a player's career. If you perform well at such a level, your career will be on the right path, whilst a bad output can negatively affect your career.
What has been the strength of the Niger team, which has no big name players till this far?
Our strength has been the fighting spirit and unity of the team. Every player is motivated by the solidarity within the team. We also have an experience trainer in Gernot Rohr, who without his tactical knowledge could not have beaten Guinea to qualify for the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Which teams are your favourites for the tournament?
It's hard to pick out a favorite at this moment. However, Cote d'Ivoire and Zambia can be considered as favorites on the basis that the former is the best ranked team on the continent and the latter are the reigning champions.