History will be made this summer when Madagascar travel to Egypt for their first-ever appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.
After being drawn in a group alongside Senegal, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea, not many people put much thought into the possibility of Madagascar making it to Afcon.
However, several months later they have done something that no other Madagascan squad has done before them and made it to Africa’s premier tournament.
Here, TheCable previews their chances of enjoying similar success in Egypt, this 2019.
Madagascar’s hopes of once again upsetting the odds and making it through to the knockout stages will not have been dampened too much by the draw, which placed them in Group B alongside Nigeria, Guinea and Burundi.
Nigeria will be the favourites to top the group, while Madagascar need only look back as far as the qualifiers or believe they can finish above others in the pool.
Madagascar fixtures in Egypt:
June 22: Guinea vs Madagascar (9pm, Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria)
June 27: Madagascar vs Burundi (3:30pm, Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria)
June 30: Madagascar vs Nigeria (3:30pm, Alexandria Stadium, Alexandria)
How they qualified
After 18 failed attempts since 1970, Madagascar football team made history claiming their spot in the Afcon with 10 points and in second place behind Senegal.
They picked three wins and one draw in Group A in which they also competed against Sudan and Equatorial Guinea.
It has not exactly been an encouraging build-up to the tournament for Madagascar, who are without a win in a Fifa-approved match since October 16, 2018 against Equatorial Guinea.
The debutants have lost four and drawn one of their outings since then, which is particularly mind-boggling.
So far this year Madagascar have been beaten by Senegal, Kenya and Mauritania.
Goalkeepers: Ibrahima Ousmane Arthur Dabo, Jean Dieu Donne Randrianasolo, Melvin Andrien
Defenders: Pascal Razakanantenaina, Dimitry Caloin, Jeremy Michel Morel, Toaviina Hasitiana Rambeloson, Romain Metanire, Thomas Fontaine, Jerome Mombris, Mamy Nirina Gervais Randrianarisoa
Midfielders: Marco Ilaimaharitra, Anicet Andrianantenaina, Ibrahim Samuel Amada, Jean Rakotoarisoa, Lalaina Henintsoa Nomenjanahary, Rayan Ny Aina Arnaldo Raveloson, Andriamiraldo Aro Hasina Andrianarimanana
Forwards: Charles Carolus Andriamahitsinoro, Faneva Ima Andriatsima, Tsilavina Martin Rakotoharimalala Njiva, Paulin Voavy, William Joseph Gros
Star player: Faneva Ima Andriatsima
While it could be argued that the absence of Paulin Voavy would have had a bigger impact on their Afcon campaign, it is difficult to argue against Ima being Madagascar’s star man purely for his attacking ability. The 35-year-old plays for Clermont Foot in France.
The experienced player is at the centre of this Madagascar side in more ways than one, scoring three goals in qualifying and supplying two assists.
He was his side’s top scorer in 2010 Fifa World Cup qualification.
Manager: Nicolas Dupuis
Madagascar qualified for 2019 Africa Cup of Nations after beating Equatorial Guinea in Antananarivo, marking Madagascar’s first ever Afcon appearance with Dupuis at the helms of affairs.
In January 2019 it was announced that he would combine his role as Madagascar manager with that of technical director of French club FC Fleury 91. In March 2019, Madagascar extended his contract until after the Afcon.
Afcon record – Best finish: None
Madagascar will be appearing at their first ever Afcon this summer, having tried and failed to qualify on 18 previous occasions.
Madagascar’s Afcon 2019 qualification heroics look bleak considering their recent form, and as such we’re predicting them to prop up the rest in Group B.
Verdict: Fourth in Group B
Question: As the popular saying, “there are no more underdogs in football”. Can Madagascar shock the Super Eagles and other opponents in group B at the Afcon?