Madagascar 1st team to qualify for African Cup of Nations

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) Madagascar has become the first team to qualify for next year's African Cup of Nations and will play at the continental championship for the first time after beating Equatorial Guinea 1-0 on Tuesday.

Midfielder Njiva Rakotoharimalala scored the decisive goal late in the first half and Madagascar held on to clinch one of the top two places in Group A with two games to spare.

The victory is the biggest moment for soccer on the Indian Ocean island and follows the head of its national federation, Ahmad, being elected president of the Confederation of African Football last year.

The top two from each group qualify with the exception of Group B, where the highest-placed team will qualify alongside tournament host Cameroon, which is also playing in the qualifying competition despite already being guaranteed a place.

Next year's African Cup is the first to be expanded to 24 teams from the usual 16.

Updated October 16, 2018