Madagascar coach Nicolas Dupuis wants the Indian Ocean islanders to “keep dreaming together” as the surprise team of this Africa Cup of Nations face Tunisia on Thursday for a spot in the semi-finals.
Competition debutants Madagascar, who were ranked so low they had to come through a preliminary round just to take part in qualifying, are looking to become the first debutants to reach the last four since South Africa captured the title on home soil in 1996.
Nicknamed ‘Barea’, after a breed of local cattle, Madagascar beat three-time winners Nigeria to finish top of their group in Egypt and then overcame DR Congo on penalties in the last 16 to extend their remarkable adventure.
“I simply want to continue dreaming together. Since the start, two and a half years ago, we said we’re going to qualify for the AFCON. We want to have a common goal that’s reasonable,” Dupuis told reporters on Wednesday.
“I think the with talent of the players, to give them a reasonable goal such as to qualify and then to keep going, if everyone is on the same page then it can be done.
“If the goal is unrealistic, such as winning the World Cup, I would lose the energy and the minds of the players.
“But qualifying and getting out of the group were achievable. Now we’re going to reach beyond what is feasible. There’s still a bit that is achievable but it’s going to be very difficult.”
‘Clear outsiders’ –
At 108 in the world rankings, Madagascar will come up against a Tunisia team ranked 83 places above them, as the second-highest country in Africa behind title favourites Senegal.
“We’re going into this match clearly as outsiders against a team that played in the World Cup and is ranked 25th by FIFA. We’re proud to be able to play such a team. We’ll be without any pressure and just want to be up to scratch,” said Dupuis.
“We’re aware of the happiness and joy we give to the 25 million Madagascans. When we go home it will be crazy, but we’re not in a hurry to go home. We want to stay as long as possible.”
Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina chartered a 480-seater plane to take fans to Alexandria for the DR Congo tie, and more supporters are expected at Al Salam Stadium to soak up their nation’s unexpected success.
“He’s (Rajoelina) bringing two planes this time and we’ve got 25 million people behind us so it’s giving us a lot of strength,” Dupuis added.
French police arrest 282 in riotous celebrations after Algeria football win
Some of the arrests were also linked to unrest surrounding events marking France’s national day celebrations on Sunday
A total of 282 people were arrested in France after unrest following the Algerian football team’s qualification for the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, the interior ministry said Monday.
Riotous celebrations erupted around the country after Algeria beat Nigeria 2-1 in the semi-final. The arrests were made nationwide on Sunday evening, the ministry said.
Some of the arrests were also linked to unrest surrounding events marking France’s national day celebrations on Sunday.
Unruly scenes erupted in Paris, Marseille, and Lyon. Fifty people were arrested in the French capital and there were incidents between football fans and police on the Champs-Elysees avenue.
Dozens of cars were torched overnight in the eastern city of Lyon.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Monday congratulated police and firemen for their “speedy reaction and professionalism which contained the violence and to the perpetrators” being apprehended.
Of those arrested, 249 people were in custody.
Last Thursday, when Algeria defeated Ivory Coast to reach the semi-finals, fans went on the rampage in central Paris, looting shops.
On the same day in the southern city of Montpellier, an Algerian football supporter celebrating his team’s win lost control of his car at high speed and ran into a family, killing a woman and seriously injuring her baby.
Paris and Marseille are home to large minority communities of Algerian origin. Football celebrations, with supporters brandishing large national flags, have, on occasion, been a source of tensions.
Algeria defeat Nigeria to set up Senegal rematch for AFCON final
Algeria will take on Sadio Mane’s Senegal for the title on July 19, in a repeat of a group stage clash they won 1-0
Riyad Mahrez rifled in a stoppage-time free-kick to earn Algeria a dramatic 2-1 victory over three-time champions Nigeria on Sunday and set up a rematch with Senegal in the Africa Cup of Nations final.
Algeria led through a first-half own goal by William Troost-Ekong before Nigeria equalised with an Odion Ighalo penalty awarded after a VAR review.
However, as extra time looked necessary, Mahrez blasted in from 20 yards with the last kick of the match to send the Desert Foxes through to their first final since lifting the trophy for the only time in 1990.
Algeria will take on Sadio Mane’s Senegal for the title on July 19, in a repeat of a group stage clash they won 1-0.
“We are very happy to be in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations because it is something very special,” said Mahrez.
“It was our goal to do it for the people and for our families. We know they are behind us all the way. It’s my most important goal for the national dream. Yes, it’s my dream to win it and hopefully we will be able to.”
An injury to Youcef Atal, who fractured his collarbone during the quarter-final win over Ivory Coast on penalties, forced Djamel Belmadi to start Mehdi Zeffane at right-back, while Nigeria fielded the same team that overcame South Africa here.
Algeria supporters filled most of the lower tier at one end of the ground, dwarfing a small section of Nigeria fans, but there were large swathes of empty seats at the 75,000-capacity Cairo International Stadium.
Mahrez leads by example –
Leading scorers in the tournament and considered the most impressive side, Algeria quickly asserted themselves as Ramy Bensebaini headed narrowly over before a wicked Youcef Belaili cross nearly lead to a goal for Baghdad Bounedjah.
Hesitant defending from Kenneth Omeruo just outside his own area then allowed Bounedjah to nip in, but the Al-Sadd striker could only shoot tamely at Daniel Akpeyi.
Seemingly having moved on from the penalty miss that reduced him to tears in the last round, Bounedjah was consistently proving a nuisance to a nervy Nigeria backline with Jamilu Collins relieved to see a toed clearance land on the roof of the net.
Nigeria countered intermittently as Ighalo dragged wide after Mahrez was caught in possession, but the Manchester City winger promptly atoned as Algeria made the breakthrough on 40 minutes.
After gathering the ball on the right Mahrez danced past Collins before sending over a cross that flicked off the left-back and struck a helpless Troost-Ekong in the midriff before tricking over the line.
Super Eagles boss, Gernot Rohr has praised his side’s resilience, particularly the way they bounced back from a shock loss to Madagascar to eliminate defending champions Cameroon, and Nigeria again hit back with the aid of VAR.
Gambian referee Bakary Gassama initially dismissed Nigerian penalty appeals when a Peter Etebo shot struck the arm of Aissa Mandi but reserved that decision, with Ighalo sending Rais Mbohli the wrong way from the spot for his competition-best fourth goal.
Sofiane Feghouli blazed over late on and extra time beckoned after Ismael Bennacer rattled the bar in stoppage time, but Mahrez won it at the death with a thunderous strike into the top corner.
Own goal helps Senegal defeat Tunisia to reach AFCON final
Senegal will miss star defender Kalidou Koulibaly for the final against Algeria after he was yellow-carded
Senegal reached the Africa Cup of Nations final for the second time with a Dylan Bronn own goal giving them a 1-0 win over Tunisia on Sunday in a tense last-four clash in Cairo.
With 11 minutes gone in extra time, goalkeeper Mouez Hassen pushed a free-kick against the head of Bronn and the ball went backwards into the net.
Tunisia thought they would have a chance to equalise when Idrissa Gueye handled in the box, but the Ethiopian referee reversed his original decision to award a penalty after watching replays at the VAR monitor.
Both teams missed penalties in regular time with Ferjani Sassi the Tunisian culprit before Henri Saivet failed for the Senegalese.
Liverpool star, Sadio Mane began the tournament as the first-choice Senegal penalty taker but, after missing two, opted out before the quarter-finals.
Senegal will miss star defender Kalidou Koulibaly for the final against Algeria after he was yellow-carded.
It was the second caution of the knockout phase for the Napoli centre-back and triggered an automatic one-match suspension.
Senegal last reached the title decider 17 years ago, when current coach Aliou Cisse captained a team beaten on penalties by Cameroon in Mali.
“I congratulate (Tunisia and former Senegal coach) Alain Giresse because he left me a good group. He did a good job in Senegal,” said Cisse.
“The match was incredible because of the uncertainty — it will remain in the annals of African football.”
French football legend Giresse said: “We were equal to Senegal and had opportunities, but did not know how to transform them.
“I am the number one supporter of Aliou Cisse. He will become a coach who will surpass what he achieved as a player. He will win the Cup of Nations.”
Zambian President fires finance minister
Africa in 60 – July 15, 2019
DR Congo urges calm after Ebola outbreak in Goma city
Zimbabwe’s inflation rate climbs to 175%
Ex-South African President Jacob Zuma claims he has been vilified
Rwanda’s Ubumuntu Arts Festival and the celebration of humanity
Campaigners demand arrest of Nigerian pastor accused of rape, set for court
Three suicide bombers kill over 30 people in Nigeria
Nigeria’s apex bank to offer seven-year loans to youth corps members
Sand Miners threaten Morocco’s coastline
Feature Stories & News2 months ago
Egypt’s new Ramadan series-streaming app scrutinised by critics
Lifestyle News & Gists5 months ago
Five killed in South Africa coal mine blast, others trapped
Op-Ed6 months ago
What are the critical issues facing Africa in 2019?
Top Story5 months ago
Spotting fake news: Which is the real video of VP Osinbajo’s chopper incident?
Top Story3 months ago
Boat capsize: DR Congo declares national mourning over 13 dead, 114 missing
Op-Ed6 months ago
What Brexit means for Africa
Culture & Tourism6 months ago
The market in Togo where money doesn’t change hands
Op-Ed6 months ago
For the record: Ahaji Shehu Shagari (1925-2018)