Africa Cup of Nations debutants, Madagascar pulled off a surprise win over Nigeria on Sunday to top Group B and condemn the three time African Champions to second place on the group standings.
Lalaina Nomenjanahary gave the island nation a shock 12th-minute lead in Alexandria, Egypt after pouncing on some defending gaffe with Leon Balogun the culprit, jolting a side ranked 63 places above them in the world.
Finally, Charles Andriamatsinoro silenced the Nigerians 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 of the competition.
The AFCON debutants had to come through a preliminary round just to reach the qualifying competition but will now advance to the round of 16 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 Madagascar gaffer, Nicolas Dupuis. “It’s a real achievement for us.”
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.”
The defeat for Nigeria would most likely set what could turn out to be a costly matchup against current holders, Cameroon or four time winners, Ghana while Madagascar would be poised to take on a third place team from any of Groups A, C or D.
“What happened was Madagascar were the better team today,” said Super Eagles 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.”