Ask anybody about Madagascar and chances are the first thing that springs to mind is the animated movie of the same name from 2005.However, over the past few weeks, the island nation with a population just shy of 25 million is writing its own blockbuster script as they produce a stunning Africa Cup of Nations campaign. Competing at the tournament for the first time and ranked 108th in world when they arrived in Egypt, Madagascar flew right under the radar at the outset, with even their coach conceding they shouldn’t have stood any chance. Article continues below Editors’ Picks ‘Everyone legged it on to the pitch!’ – How Foden went from Man City superfan to future superstar Emery out of jail – for now – as brilliant Pepe papers over Arsenal’s cracks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare “All teams are better on paper than us,” Nicolas Dupuis told AFP. “We don’t have any stars in our team. The star is the team.”We have a real team of friends but also with talented players, who are very good but perhaps not stars.”Dupuis is no high-profile coach himself, currently juggling a role as the technical director of FC Fleury 91, a club which competes in the fourth-tier of French football.But despite the odds being stacked against them, Madagascar have excelled to set up a quarter-final match against Tunisia on Thursday. Madagascar, also known as the Barea, are undefeated across their first four matches at the Africa Cup of Nations – a feat not achieved since Libya in 1982 for a nation making their debut at the tournament. Dupuis’ side has so far picked up one draw and three wins, with their biggest result seeing them upset Nigeria 2-0 in their final group match. Three-time AFCON winners Nigeria were ranked 63 places higher than Madagascar just a month ago but had no answers for their plucky opponents.The Barea have proven particularly versatile in attack and have scored in all four of their matches to become the first side since Zambia in 1975 to strike in their first four appearances at the tournament. Desperate to rewrite the country’s previously animated narrative, Madagascar’s players held their nerve in a Round of 16 clash against DR Congo, as they triumphed 4-2 on penalties after the game had finished 2-2. Tunisia now loom as their next opponent and Dupuis’ men must produce another upset worthy of Hollywood.Appearing in their 10th AFCON quarter-final and ranked 25th in the world, Tunisia will be strong favourites to progress but Madagascar has quickly proven they aren’t a side to be written off.Tunisia’s form has, in fact, paled in comparison to the Barea’s, with Alain Giresse’s side drawing three of their four games and only beating Ghana on penalties in the Round of 16. Ranked as low as 190th in the world five years ago, win or lose on Thursday, Madagascar have certainly come a long way in a short space of time. Having failed to win a game in 2017 AFCON qualifying, Dupuis is desperate to instigate a radical overview of football development in a country where the beautiful game has previously hidden away. “I’m raising the alarm because the national team is the tree that hides in the forest,” he said.”There is nothing being done from a technical standpoint at the national level, there’s no work in terms of youth and it’s serious. “If we don’t question everything, if we don’t get back to work, in two years, there will be no more team and in four, even less so. It would be a shame because there’s a real breeding ground and it’s quite an old team.”My role is to sound the alarm and tell officials there are lots of things in need of change in Madagascar.”Considering how his side have performed in Egypt to date, it’s safe to say Dupuis has well and truly got sirens ringing across Madagascar. “We’re not too aware of what we’re doing, except when we get sent photos from Madagascar, where it’s madness right now,” Dupuis said. “We’re trying to live in the moment as best as possible because these moments are rare. It’s in these rare moments when you realise that we have the best job in the world.”Midfielder Anicet Abel got the ball rolling for Madagascar in Egypt, scoring his nation’s first ever goal at AFCON in their opening game against Guinea which ended 2-2. The 29-year-old, who plays club football in Bulgaria, is all too aware that his side were perhaps rightly seen as underdogs heading into the tournament. “When we came here at the beginning of the tournament, nobody took us seriously but we believed in ourselves,” Abel told Reuters.”Of course, they underestimated us and I understand them – Madagascar is not famous in football; I think Madagascar is only famous for the movie.”A perception Abel and his team are quickly rewriting as they produce a football fairytale DreamWorks themselves would be proud of.
Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedCaribbean exports increase for the first time in four yearsMay 24, 2017In “latest news”Caribbean News Round-upOctober 18, 2015In “Regional”New IDB study says AI can boost Caribbean economiesAugust 30, 2018In “Regional” BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (CMC) — A new report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says Latin America and the Caribbean need a “quality leap” from declining export competitiveness.On Wednesday, the IDB said in the first quarter of 2018, the value of exports from Latin America and the Caribbean grew at a year-on-year rate of 9.7 per cent in comparison with the same period in 2017.But the IDB said this growth has come amid signs that the region is becoming less competitive amid rising economic risks and global trade tensions.The growth in exports was driven by increases in the prices of commodities, such as oil and copper, the IDB said.In contrast, it said the volume of exports slowed to 3.1 per cent during the same period, “which speaks to the region’s loss of market share due to declining competitiveness and the lack of high-quality exports from many countries in the region.”“The Quality Leap: Export Sophistication As a Driver for Growth,” a new report in the IDB’s Trade and Integration Monitor series, launched in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday, maps the sophistication of the region’s export supply and the main challenges it faces in securing a firmer position in the more profitable sectors of global trade.Independently of factors, such as the economic difficulties experienced by several countries and dampened external demand, the report says that the competitive lag determined by low productivity and high trade costs affected the export performance of the region.To estimate the loss of competitiveness, the study measures the variation in market share between 2011 and 2016, with an emphasis on intraregional exports.The report says the region’s competitiveness dropped by 7.4 percentage points during the period, which accounts for 22 per cent of the decrease in exports.The IDB said the analysis does not seek to present an exhaustive discussion of the determinants of productivity and competitiveness, which lie in a set of phenomena not exclusively related to the ability to compete in world markets.“In a global context of growing uncertainty and low regional competitiveness, Latin America and the Caribbean urgently need to prioritise a policy agenda that will enable a leap in the quality of their exports,” said Paolo Giordano, principal economist at the IDB’s Integration and Trade Sector, who coordinated the report. “More sophisticated exports will help support the current trade recovery and lay the foundations for greater growth in the future.”Giordano said that the gap between Latin America and the Caribbean and its global competitors is wide and has gone unchanged for decades.He said that although there have been success stories and clear opportunities for improvements to quality, “a sizeable share of the region’s exports are of no more than medium quality.”The report identifies the product lines where there is most room for quality increases, such as food (coffee, cocoa, sugar, cereals, or fish) and raw materials (wood, hides, or skins), among others.For example, it says countries can export higher-quality coffee or cocoa beans, or more processed leathers.An analysis of the differences between intraregional and extra-regional trade reveals that the intraregional export basket is of a higher quality than the extra-regional basket.The report says the export basket is also more diversified, contains a larger share of manufactured products, and has higher technology content.However, since the financial crisis, the report says the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have lost some of their regional market share due to a decline in competitiveness.The report says they have also been unable to leverage the potential for regional integration to develop complex value chains based on trade in intermediate products and production inputs.The report calls for an ambitious multisectoral policy agenda. At the national level, it recommends the construction of “comprehensive, efficient, high-quality infrastructure systems that are clearly oriented toward internationalisation.”At the regional level, it argues in favour of initiatives that aim to complete and rationalise the architecture of trade, along with investments in infrastructure that facilitate greater productive integration.The report says strengthening higher-quality trade flows and regional value chains would not only benefit the export diversification and sophistication of exports, it would also help improve the competitiveness of the region’s economies in the global market.