Nigeria upset by Madagascar in final AFCON group stage match

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With a spot in the knockout stage already confirmed but the group not yet secured, Nigeria had a dud against Madagascar, falling 2-0 in a performance that highlighted the team’s inability to handle a quality counter-press.

Nigeria held 61% possession throughout the match and worked 12 total shots but only put one on target as they struggled with Madagascar’s defensive shape and pressure that forced them into constant turnovers.

Madagascar, meanwhile, continued its dream start to its first ever Africa Cup of Nations, finishing group stage play top of Group B unbeaten with two wins and a draw, having conceded just once through the three matches against Nigeria, Burundi, and Guinea. The squad features hardly any players from recognizable European clubs compared to other more favorited squads in the competition like Nigeria, Egypt, and Senegal among others, but has played with cohesion and togetherness.

They got the opener off a bad Nigeria mistake on the high press, with William Troost-Ekong playing a dangerous centering pass to fellow defender Leon Balogun right in front of net, picked off by Lalaina Nomenjanahary who scored in the 13th minute. Madagascar doubled the lead after halftime through winger Carolus Andriamatsinoro who delivered a 53rd-minute free-kick that took an enormous deflection off the hip of a leaping substitute Ndidi and fell to the far post, clipping the woodwork and finding the back of the net.

Nigeria boss Thomas Dennerby sat a number of first-team players with the knockout stage spot clinched, leaving Alex Iwobi, Wilfried Ndidi, and Kenneth Omeruo. The replacements couldn’t compete, and Nigeria fell to second in the group, still qualifying for the knockout stage but now forced to play another group stage runner-up instead of matching up with a third-place qualifier.