Madagascar have qualified to next year’s Africa Cup of Nations for the first time ever following 18th failed attempts since 1970.

They beat Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in Antananarivo on Tuesday to become the first team to join hosts Cameroon in next year’s finals.

Thailand-based midfielder Njiva Rakotoharimalala scored the only goal four minutes before half-time.

The victory takes the Barea up to 10 points in Group A after four matches, taking them out of reach of Equatorial Guinea (three points) or pointless Sudan.

The Falcons of Jediane will be eliminated on Tuesday unless they defeat Senegal (seven points) in Khartoum.

The Islanders have enjoyed an upturn of fortunes following the appointment of French coach Nicolas Dupuis, although they remain down in 106th in the FIFA World Rankings.

Madagascar defeated Sudan 3-1 away in their first qualifier before holding Senegal 2-2 at home in September, a match overshadowed by the death of a supporter following a stadium stampede at the Stade Municipal de Mahamasina.

They followed that up with a 1-0 away victory in Bata on Saturday, and can now look forward to taking their place among the continent’s heavyweights in Cameroon.

Madagascar have failed to qualify for the AFCON on 18 occasions and withdrew from qualifying three times since their first qualification attempt ahead of the 1972 finals.

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