LAGOS - Nigeria were the biggest casualty as fellow favourites Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo qualified for the African Championship of nations to be hosted by Sudan next year.
For the second time running in the competition designed by the Confederation of African Football to expose players from the local leagues of the continent, Nigeria failed to qualify for the tournament after they were upset 2-0 on aggregate by Niger.
Niger won the first leg 2-0 in Niamey before they held the Nigerian home-based Eagles to a goalless draw at a packed Sani Abacha Stadium in the northern city of Kano on Sunday to book their ticket to their first-ever full international competition finals.
Nigeria paraded a much-changed team from the first encounter in Niger in a bid to win by a convincing margin on Sunday, but Niger goalkeeper Lousseni Doumbia Issah pulled off several heroics including saving a 36th- minute penalty.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the inaugural tournament in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, last year when they were eliminated by perennial rivals Ghana.
Cameroon, DRC and Ghana lived up to their billing by booking their places in next year's tournament. Cameroon, who failed to reach last year's competition, were the first team besides hosts Sudan to qualify for the 2011 edition after a comfortable 3-0 win over Congo in Yaounde, with goals from Eyenga Anicet, Julian and Edgar Momasso Saly.
The first leg ended 1-1.
DRC will now play Gabon in May for a chance to qualify for the tournament proper after the defending champions defeated Gabon 3-2 on aggregate at the weekend. Ghana, who reached last year's championship game against DRC, are also through to Sudan 2011 courtesy of a 1-0 win in Accra.
South Africa will tackle Zambia in the next round of the qualifiers after they defeated Botswana 2-1 in Johannesburg with a brace from Bloemfontein Celtic striker Moses Spandeel. - Sapa-AFP