Madagascar on Tuesday became the first country to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, and the 40th country overall to reach the continental soccer showpiece in the competition’s history, footballlive.ng can report.
‘The Red Island’ made history after their 26-year-old Thailand-based midfielder, Njiva Rakotoharimalala scored the only goal three minutes before half-time against visiting Equatorial Guinea.
The result puts the former Malagasy Island on ten points in Group A to guarantee them a place at AFCON 2019 with two matches remaining.
The game was played in Vontovorona, after Madagascar were banned from using Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo for three matches.
The suspension was imposed by the Confederation of Africa Football following a stampede at the national stadium in September, when one person was killed and nearly 40 others were injured.
There were two drawn matches in Group B as Comoros grabbed a 2-2 against visiting Morocco and Malawi held Cameroon to a goalless draw in Blantyre.
El Fardou Ben Mohamed, who plays for Serbian side Red Star Belgrade, opened the scoring after just eight minutes to give Comoros a shock lead.
The Moroccans then fought back with two second-half goals from Khalid Boutaib and Nordin Amrabaat to take the lead.
The hosts kept battling and Ben Mohamed was on target again in injury time at the end of the match to earn a point for Comoros.
The results mean that Cameroon top the group with eight points, but they have qualified automatically as the Nations Cup hosts leaving just one more place up for grabs from the group.
Morocco lead the way in the race to the finals on seven points, Malawi move to four points and Comoros are on two – with all the teams having played four matches.
Three teams remain in contention to qualify from Group C after Gabon beat hosts South Sudan 1-0 and Burundi held visiting Mali to a 1-1 draw.