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Madagascar have been the surprise team of this African Cup of Nations tournament. They had never previously reached the finals but are now just two wins away from becoming the champions. Their run may well come to an end though when they take on Tunisia in the quarter finals.
The beauty of a cup competition is that there are always some shocks. The best teams may end up winning in the end but a few surprises on the way to the final are pure gold. Madagascar (the country not the movie) have taken up the role of the team that have gone far further than perhaps even they imagined.
Picture the scene on 22 March, 2017 when this tournament began with a preliminary round qualifying match. Madagascar travelled to São Tomé and Príncipe and came away with a 1-0 win thanks to a second-half own goal.
The home side are currently ranked 183rd in the world and their record win is only 2-0. Madagascar wrapped up the tie with a 3-2 win to qualify for the group stages. It’s unlikely that they thought two years later they would be preparing for a quarter final tie and 25/1 (26.0) at Coral to win the African Cup of Nations.
Madagasar finished second behind Senegal in their group to qualify. Perhaps their group matches might have been a rehearsal for a semi-final meeting. Madagasar drew 2-2 at home against Senegal (the highest ranked African team in the world). You can get odds of 23/10 (3.3) at Betfair on Madagascar qualifying for the last four. A win in 90 minutes is 4/1 (5.0) if your wager is placed at BetVictor.
The Shocks Begin
Those results against Senegal showed early signs of Madagascar showing improvement. The latest world rankings put them at 108, that’s 39 places higher than five years ago. They began these finals with a 2-2 draw against Guinea and then beat Burundi 1-0. Those four points were enough to get them into the last 16 but then they went and beat Nigeria 1-0 to win the group.
That took them into the knock-out stages and the shocks continued as they drew 2-2 with DR Congo and then won on penalties. It’s 12/1 (13.0) at SkyBet that Madagascar win this match in that manner The odds on a draw after 90 minutes are 21/10 (3.1) at Paddy Power.
Tunisia are the 25th ranked team in the world. That makes them the second-highest ranked team in Africa. They finished top of their qualifying group ahead of Egypt and are bidding to win the title for the first time since 2004. There are odds of 7/1 (8.0) at Sportingbet on the Tunisians winning this tournament.
Since that win 15 years ago, Tunisia have failed to make it past the quarter finals. They can be backed at odds of 5/6 (1.83) at Coral on them winning this match in 90 minutes. Qualifying for that elusive semi-final has odds of 4/11 (1.36) if going to Bet365.
Tunisia didn’t have it all their own way in the group stages. All three of their matches ended level. Games against Angola (ranked lower than their opponents in this game) and Mali both ended 1-1 with the final game being a goalless draw with Mauritania. The three points were enough to take them into a last sixteen tie with Ghana and again they drew after 90 minutes.
They nearly got their first win but Ghana equalized via an own goal in the 91st minutes. Tunisia went on to win on penalties and are 10/1 (11.0) at SkyBet to win this game on penalties.
Tunisia have won three of their four matches played against Madagasar. The last two were both World Cup qualifiers and were won without conceding a goal. You can get 31/20 (2.55) at Unibet on Tunisia winning this game to nil.
Marco Ilaimaharitra was suspended for the last Madagascar match. He’s expected to return for this quarter final. Tunisia may have Wahbi Khazri starting this game after beginning on the subs bench against Ghana due to a muscle strain.
Tunisia are over 80 places above their opponents but that inability to beat Angola is a worry So is the draw with Mauritania who are only just ranked above Madagascar. Their opponents have caused two major shocks already and a bet on this game ending as a draw after 90 minutes with both teams scoring has odds of 9/2 (5.5) at Betfred.