Madagascar stun Nigeria to extend Cup of Nations fairytale

Madagascar's midfielder Lalaina Nomenjanahary shoots and scores a goal during the match against Nigeria. (AFP)
Updated 01 July 2019

Madagascar stun Nigeria to extend Cup of Nations fairytale

  • Lalaina Nomenjanahary gave Madagascar a shock 12th-minute lead in Alexandria

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. 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 or D.

Having already qualified after back-to-back 1-0 victories, Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr made five changes to the side that overcame Guinea in their second game with Samuel Kalu handed his first start of the tournament following last week’s collapse in training due to severe dehydration.

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.

French coach Nicolas Dupuis, who combines the role with his job 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.


Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

Updated 20 October 2020

Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

  • Barca have not won since 2015, but since then have never embarked on a new campaign amid so much disarray

MADRID: Despite managing to hang onto Lionel Messi, Barcelona begin its Champions League campaign with reduced expectations after one of their worst seasons in years.
The Catalan club appears to lack its confidence from previous seasons following an embarrassing elimination to Bayern Munich and a troubled off-season in which it nearly lost its talisman.

“Knowing what happened recently, we are not the top favorite,” coach Ronald Koeman said on Monday ahead of the team's debut in this season's competition against Hungarian club Ferencvaros. “But we are a team that can go far.”

Koeman arrived to put Barcelona back on track shortly after the 8-2 collapse against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, which capped their first season without a title since 2007-08.

“Barcelona always plays to win titles, in the league and in Europe, but there are other strong teams,” Koeman said.

Barcelona have not  won the Champions League since 2015, but since then they had never embarked on a new campaign in the competition amid so much disarray.

The club avoided losing Messi after he said he wanted to leave, but it continued to endure political turmoil and even financial difficulties. President Josep Bartomeu is facing a censure motion that could force him to leave his post before the end of the year.

Koeman was given the task of revamping the first team, and he quickly got rid of veterans such as Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic, but the club failed to bring in any of the players he wanted in the transfer window.

Koeman said Messi is fine despite scoring just once so far this season.

“Maybe his performance could be better, but I see him happy,” Koeman said. “I see him training well and focused. I have nothing to complain about him in that sense.”

He said “a bit of bad luck” has played a role in keeping the Argentina star from scoring more goals so far. Koeman also downplayed criticism of Antoine Griezmann for his recent poor performances, though he admitted that “everyone in the attack” can improve.

Barcelona opened the Spanish league with two convincing wins under Koeman, but then it drew 1-1 with Sevilla at home and lost 1-0 at Getafe on Saturday.

Hungarian champions Ferencvaros return to the Champions League for the first time since 1995. They needed to get through four qualifying rounds to reach the group stage.

The other Group G teams are Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv.

“We want to start with the right foot,” Koeman said. “We want to win the match and gain tranquility.”