The African Cup of Nations: ‘Fairy-tale’ team, cursed jerseys and super fans

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AFP

As Algeria and Senegal face each other in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final in Egypt on Friday, we look at some of the high and low points of the continent’s biggest football tournament.

The knights of Madagascar We all love an underdog and low-ranking Madagascar were the team many neutral fans were rooting for. The Barea – named after a local hump-backed zebu cow – went on a fairy-tale run, outplaying and beating mighty Nigeria before reaching the quarter-finals in their first Afcon appearance. Five years ago, Madagascar were ranked 190 out of 211 in the Fifa world rankings.To qualify for the finals in Egypt, they had to take part in the preliminary round of qualifying, against Sao Tome and Principe in early 2017.

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Presidency of the Republic of Madagascar

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President Rajoelina awards the Madagascar for their impressive performance

The country does not have a professional league and most of the squad play in the French second division, while others are based in Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Algeria and Egypt.So impressed was President Andry Rajoelina with the team’s performance when they made it to the last 16 that he paid for a plane carrying 480 fans from Madagascar to watch their game against the Democratic Republic of Congo, which they won. Their impressive run of victories came to an end against Tunisia, but it didn’t lessen their achievement. President Rajoelina who gave the players the rank of Knight of the Malagasy National Order, one of the highest state commendations, when they returned home. And their current ranking of 108 is set to rocket. Fans of Desert Foxes cause French mayhemIf there’s some added European interest in the tournament, then the Algeria fans have a lot to do with it. The massive diaspora community in France has been gathering in cities across the country to cheer on their team, but their celebrations have sometimes been over the top.

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Getty Images

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Algeria fans have been pouring on to the streets of Paris to cheer on their team

On Monday, French police arrested 282 Algeria fans in three cities, including the capital, Paris, after violent celebrations broke out when Riyad Mahrez scored a late winner against Nigeria to secure the Desert Foxes a spot in the final.Last week, 43 Algerian fans were arrested on the Champs-Elysees in the French capital after the team won their semi-final match against Ivory Coast. AFP news agency reported that two nearby stores were looted. It also quoted a security official as saying that in the southern city of Montpellier a celebrating fan lost control of his car and ran over a family, killing a woman and seriously injuring her one-year-old baby.French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner described the actions of the fans as “unacceptable”.Many are no doubt nervously waiting to see how things will pan out in France in the final match against Senegal’s Lions of Teranga. However, by reaching the Afcon final, the Algerian footba

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