Alexandria - Africa
Cup of Nations newcomers Madagascar pulled off a stunning upset of
Nigeria on Sunday with a 2-0 win over the three-time former champions to
clinch a place in the last 16.
Lalaina Nomenjanahary gave Madagascar a shock 12th-minute lead in
Alexandria after pouncing on ponderous defending, jolting a side ranked
63 places above them in the world.
Charles Andriamatsinoro sealed the victory in front of CAF president
and Madagascar native Ahmad Ahmad with a heavily deflected free-kick on
53 minutes for his second goal in three games in Egypt.
The Indian Ocean islanders had to come through a preliminary round
just to reach the qualifying competition but will advance as winners of
Group B ahead of Nigeria, with Guinea hoping to progress as one of four
best third-place finishers following a 2-0 win over Burundi in Cairo.
"I have to thank the players who made me proud and the people of
Madagascar proud," said coach Nicolas Dupuis. "It's a real achievement
He added: "I really wanted to make the people of Madagascar dream and
we did but it came at a bit of a cost with all the effort we put in."
Defeat for Nigeria likely sets up an eye-catching clash with either
holders Cameroon or four-time winners Ghana in the next round, while
Madagascar will take on a team that finishes third from either Group A, C
"What happened was Madagascar were the better team today," said
Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr. "We started with a gift. We didn't want to
make a gift but this first goal was a wonderful gift for Madagascar and
then we couldn't find solutions.
"It's not a shame to lose a match against such a team."
Having already qualified after back-to-back 1-0 victories, Rohr made
five changes to the side that overcame Guinea in their second game.
Samuel Kalu was handed his first start of the tournament following last
week's collapse in training due to severe hydration.
Yet after a
comfortable start Nigeria gifted their opponents a goal completely
against the run of play when a poor pass from John Ogu put Leon Balogun
in trouble, with Nomenjanahary pinching the ball on the edge of the area
and coolly dancing round Ikechukwu Ezenwa to slot home.
Kalu bent a shot wide of the far post in response for Nigeria, whose
penalty appeals were ignored when Ahmed Musa tumbled to the ground after
trying to skip past goalkeeper Melvin Adrien on the half-hour.
Frenchman Dupuis, who also coaches at a lower-league club in his
homeland, has worked wonders with a Madagascar side that qualified for a
first Cup of Nations by finishing above Equatorial Guinea and Sudan.
They doubled their lead early in the second half here when
Andriamatsinoro's set-piece flicked off substitute Wilfred Ndidi and
left Ezenwa stranded as the ball sailed into the net.
Ndidi belatedly registered Nigeria's first shot on target just before
the hour with a curling effort straight at Adrien, although Anicet
Andrianantenaina nearly bagged a third as Ezenwa smothered on the line
after an inviting Andriamatsinoro cross.
While Madagascar became the first debutants to advance beyond the
group stage since Cape Verde in 2013, they will be without midfielder
Marco Ilaimaharitra for their next game after he collected a late yellow
card, his second in three matches.
In contrast, fellow newcomers Burundi bowed out without a single goal or point after a 2-0 loss to Guinea.
Burundi's hopes suffered a huge blow when Christophe Nduwarugira was
sent off on 12 minutes in the capital after a foul as last man, and
Mohamed Yattara stepped up for Guinea with both goals to leave them
facing a nervous wait for a spot in the last 16.