Madagascar pulled off the surprise of the tournament so far at AFCON 2019 by eliminating DR Congo on penalties and claiming a place in the quarterfinals.
There they will face the winners of Ghana vs Tunisia where they will aim to keep the miraculous fairy tale story alive.
How has a side ranked 108th in the world managed it?
Madagascar at AFCON so far 🇲🇬
When the Malagasy minnows were grouped with Guinea, Nigeria and Burundi, they weren't given much of a hope in terms of progress to the last 16. A thrilling 2-2 draw with Guinea on matchday 1 was followed up by a win over Burundi and then a shock 2-0 victory against Nigeria's Super Eagles.
They then went on to beat DR Congo in dramatic fashion on penalties, recovering from the setback of Congolese defender Chancel Mbemba equalizing in stoppage time to see the match go to extra time.
Their possible opponents in the quarterfinals are either Ghana (FIFA ranking 50) or Tunisia (FIFA ranking 25). But as they've already shown, that "gulf in class" can be closed by determination and a will to win.
Chalk & cheese 🧀
DR Congo's Cedric Bakambu became the most expensive African player in history when he moved from Villarreal to Chinese club Beijing Guoan for a £35.4m fee in February 2018. To put that into perspective, two of Madagascar's players represent clubs in the National 3, the fifth tier of French football. Their number 10, Njiva Rakotoharimalala, came off the bench last night and represents Samut Sakhon in the second tier of Thai football.
Madagascar won their first ever Africa Cup of Nations match by beating Group B rivals Burundi 1-0 in Alexandria thanks to a free kick from Marco Ilaimaharitra, their most valuable player according to transmarkt at the time of publishing. To put the size of their achievements into perspective, their five most valuable players are included above.
Coach Dupuis has stressed the need for discipline and team ethic. “I have more of a team than individuals,” says the 51-year-old Frenchman. “I am proud of the players who give me a lot of emotion. There is simply the desire to make the Malagasy people very proud. They need it.”
As we all know, football isn't played on paper and we cannot ever legislate for miracles and shock upsets. That's why we all love the beautiful game so much. Who's to say that Madagascar cannot get to the semifinals in Egypt?
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