BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Madagascar, the home country of CAF president, Ahmad, has already written their names in the record books.
The team remains the mystery side as the 32nd Africa Cup of Nations gets to the anchor leg.
Not the best of football pundit would have expected the team to cross the group stage, let alone threatening the old order.
In the course of the tournament that is on its third week, Madagascar had beaten two former champions – Nigeria and DR Congo.
If they prevail over Tunisia this Thursday, a third former champion would be added to the list of big victims.
Yet, pundits did not foresee the unfolding scenario even after Madagascar entered the record book as the first qualifier, even before the host country!
In their debut qualification, the Indian Ocean island nation did it in grand style, picking the ticket, even with two matches to spare.
Their dream continues as they hope to get to the semi finals.
“We hope to continue rewriting history by another good result. We are proud that we made the people of Madagascar happy with that appearance”, their coach, Nicola Dupuis, was quoted by Cafonline as saying.
“Facing Tunisia is totally different and they are a very good team. The President came here to support us and this is very good. I believe we have a chance to continue our good results.
“It’s tough to have to play all these matches in such a short time and we need to recover from fatigue and some injuries”, the coach remarked.
A striker of the team, Carlous Andriamatsinoro spoke in similar vein. “We had a few hours of rest and recharge our energy. We hope to defeat Tunisia. We are very happy having the president is here and our morale is very high because of his presence.”
The Tunisians, conscious of the upsets that are happening globally is sports even as an unrated teenager beat Venus Williams at the Wimbledon, are bracing up for a tough challenge.
Alain Giresse, a French veteran of the 1982 World Cup and now coach of Tunisia admitted thatthe Madagascans are having an impressive tournament.
“The most important now is to remain focused against a team that play very exciting football. We are taking it seriously and we expect a very tough game.
“Madagascar players are talented tactically and collectively. We are in the quarterfinal now and we have to do our best to stay in the competition. Resting for just 48 hours is not enough but we have to cope with that.”
A Tunisian forward, Taha Khenissi shares the opinion of the coach and knows the dangers of underrating the Indian Ocean adventurers.
“Madagascar is a very good team. In this tournament there are lot of surprises and there are no small teams. We want to win and make Tunisians happy. We hope to reach the semifinal.”