Madagascar reach Africa Cup of Nations for first time
Malagasy players celebrate after scoring a goal against Senegal during their Africa Cup of Nations 2019 qualifier on September 9, 2018 in Antananarivo, Madagascar. (Mamyrael / AFP)
(AFP) - Madagascar won a place at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament for the first time when they triumphed 1-0 at home over Equatorial Guinea in Group A Tuesday.
Thailand-based midfielder Njiva Rakotoharimalala scored the only goal four minutes before half-time on the huge Indian Ocean island.
Victory lifted the 'Barea' (prized cattle) to 10 points from four games and beyond the reach of Equatorial Guinea and Sudan in a four team mini-league from which the top two qualify.
It was the second 1-0 victory for the Malagasy over the Equatoguineans within four days after captain Faneva Ima Andriatsima scored the winner in central Africa last Saturday,
Madagascar are the first country, apart from hosts Cameroon, to secure a place at the biennial African football showcase, with the 2019 edition set for June 15 to July 13.
They qualified despite having to play a preliminary tie, which they won 4-2 on aggregate against Sao Tome e Principe, and being seeded last behind Senegal, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan.
Senegal will also secure a place among the 24 finalists if they beat pointless Sudan in Khartoum later on Tuesday.
Qualification for the Malagasy came after 18 failed attempts since 1970, with French coach Nicolas Dupuis' most common starting eleven made up of four players based in France, one each in Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, Reunion, Saudi Arabia and Thailand, and one local.
Previously unknown in Africa, Dupuis took charge in March 2017 and has transformed Madagascar from traditional whipping boys to a side that held Senegal last month.
On a great day for Indian Ocean island states, the Seychelles held South Africa 0-0 in Victoria and the Comoros snatched a late 2-2 draw with Morocco in Mitsamiouli.
Although neither the Seychellois nor the Comorans are contenders for places at the 24-nation finals, they will be encouraged by the results against much higher ranked rivals.
The Seychelles are 189th in the world, 116 places below South Africa, while the 149th-ranked Comoros are 104 places lower than Morocco.
El Fardou Ben Nabouhane from Red Star Belgrade put the Comorans ahead on eight minutes in Mitsamiouli and levelled in the final minute after Khalid Boutaib and Nordin Amrabat scored.
Cameroon, automatic qualifiers but playing in Group B to gain competitive match practice, drew 0-0 with Malawi in Blantyre to remain leaders with eight points, one ahead of Morocco.
After celebrating slamming six goals past the Seychelles in Johannesburg last Saturday, South Africa suffered the embarrassment of dropping two Group E points in Victoria.
Lebo Mothiba was foiled by the woodwork just after half-time and South African team-mate Percy Tau had a goal disallowed in a marginal offside decision soon after.
South Africa top Group E with eight points, but Nigeria can overtake them later Tuesday by defeating Libya.
© Agence France-Presse