CAIRO: Before the Africa Cup of Nations kicked off in Egypt last month, Madagascar were best known for the tongue-twisting surnames of players such as Anicet Andrianantenaina and Charles Andriamahitsinoro. Now, 20 days into the biennial tournament, the Indian Ocean islanders have stunned three-time champions Nigeria and are preparing to face Tunisia on Thursday in the last quarterfinal. While France-born coach Nicolas Dupuis insists “the team is the star”, midfielder Andrianantenaina and forward Andriamahitsinoro have caught the eye. Bulgaria-based Andrianantenaina was among the 11 footballers chosen by a Confederation of African Football (CAF) panel as the best in the 36-match group phase.
Andriamahitsinoro, who plays for a Saudi Arabian club, made the substitutes’ list in the group ‘dream team’, and his two goals have put him in contention for the Golden Boot award. “The coach is correct to say the team is the star and, sometimes, an individual will stand out when we need him to. That is our strength,” explained Andriamahitsinoro. Tunisia coach Alain Giresse says his first target of a quarterfinal place has been achieved. “We are capable of lifting the trophy 15 years after doing so for the first time,” he said. — AFP