With heavy hearts, but heads held high, Madagascar players walked up to their fans at the western end of the Al Salaam Stadium in Cairo, applauded them while some thumped the Malagasy flag on their chests after their fairy tale run at the Total Africa Cup of Nations Egypt 2019 was brought to a screeching halt in the quarter finals on Thursday.
The debutants lost 3-0 to former champions Tunisia to see their journey come to an end, having won over the support and admiration of all and sundry following the tournament.
But even in the midst of such a heavy loss, the players, coaches and fans, including the country’s President Andry Rajoelina who was among the fans in the stadium, were proud of what the Barea had achieved.
“I think we did a great job until now but I think Tunisia was better than us. Every person in Madagascar can be proud of what we did. I know that they were always behind us and we are sorry we couldn’t go far but we will try to do better next time and we will make them satisfied for the next qualification for the World Cup,” Anicet Abel, one of the top performers in the team stated.
Madagascar topped a group that had Nigeria and Guinea, beating the Super Eagles 2-0 and drawing 2-2 with Guinea enroute to the round of 16 where they beat DR Congo on penalties.
Head coach Nicolas Dupuis has showered praise on his players for their effort and bravery in going all the way to their last eight on their maiden attempt.
“I think the people are very proud of this team. I am proud of my players and what they gave at this AFCON was fantastic. We feel very tired and sad today because we faced a very tough match, but we have to look at next time now,” Dupuis said.
He added; “The work pays off and we need to do more and change some things in Madagascar. We have seen what we can do and we need to be more ambitious now.”
His sentiments were shared by defender Thomas Fontaine who plays his club football with Stade de Reims in France.
“This was a huge experience for us. We didn’t expect to be here this far but we did it. We lost to a very good Tunisia side. We are proud of what we did and we are thankful for the people of Madagascar for their support. We wanted to make them proud and the way we played with togetherness, I believe we represented the country well,” he added.
Their next focus now is to give a stab at the FIFA World Cup qualifications as well as try to be there for the 2021 Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
The fans also expressed their delight at what the team achieved.
“They lost today, but I am proud of them. I am proud of the team and their efforts. We did very well for a team that is here for the first time and we have learnt the lessons. This team has made the people of Madagascar happy,” one fan who identified himself as Andy stated.