BY STEVE AYOO
Madagascar’s historic run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations came to a crashing finale as they were beaten 3-0 by Tunisia in Al Salam, Cairo.
The Barea have been the story of Afcon 2019 following their run to the quarterfinals in their debut tournament.
However, Tunisia, who went into the match with a run of zero wins in normal time, broke the hearts of many as they netted thrice after the break to claim the win.
Ferjani Sassi and Youssef Msakni scored twice within a span of eight second half minutes with Naim Sliti stretching the winning margin in the third minute of added time as Tunisia booked a semifinal clash against Senegal on July 13.
Madagascar’s run saw them top their group unbeaten as they impressively beat semifinalists Nigeria 2-0, having also overcome fellow newcomers Burundi and drawn against Guinea.
They then kept their penalty taking nerves to eliminate DR Congo in the last 16 and set up the Tunisia battle.
The Carthage Eagles however proved a mountain too high to summit despite having reached thus far with three group stage draws and a penalty shootout win over Ghana.
They could have gone 2-0 up at the break but Madagascar keeper Melvin Adrien brilliantly kept out Wahbi Khazri’s freekick and also made a superb save to deny Ghailene Chaalali.
Khazri had a goal ruled out for offside immediately after the restart but the Carthage Eagles’ celebrations weren’t cut short in the 52nd minute as Sassi’s effort from a Msakni pass deflected off Thomas Fontaine and into the back of Adrien’s net.
The Madagascar goalkeeper was growing busier as the game wore on and had to be alert to keep out another Khazri freekick and also an effort from the same man that was destined for bottom corner.
Adrien’s powers however were spent at the hour as Msakni beat him with a close finish from a rebound inside the Madagascar penalty area.
Adrien was called into action again as he saved Oussama Haddadi’s shot but then he was caught out of position on Tunisia’s third goal which Sliti lofted over to make the scoreline a rout.
Despite the defeat, Nicolas Dupuis’ side will leave the competition with their heads held high after achieving what any debuting team will struggle to match.
For Tunisia, there is really no resting as they face Senegal in the semis in two days time. The Lions of Teranga edged Benin 1-0 in their last 16 match.
The other semifinal will pit Algeria and Nigeria and will also be played on July 14.