The South African Football Association (SAFA) has confirmed a planned friendly with Madagascar is off after the opposition pulled out.

Madagascar were hastily lined up for Saturday's game at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg after Zambia pulled out of the scheduled fixture for safety reasons.

But the Madagascar Football Association (MFA) announced on Thursday they are also withdrawing from the game.

"After having consulted with the various national institutions of Madagascar, particularly concerning the security of the team of Madagascar and its Malagasy nationals in South Africa, it was found essential and judicious to decline the invitation," a statement read.

"The Madagascar Football Association apologises to the South African Football Federation for their efforts to organize this match, and also to the Malagasy fans who were looking forward to the match."

The decision to call off the game comes amid civil unrest in Johannesburg and Pretoria, with both cities having been the scene of looting and violence targeting foreigners.

 

Tunisia booked their place in the Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals with a 3-0 win on Thursday, ending surprise package Madagascar's outstanding run.

Alain Giresse's side might have expected a serious test against tournament debutants Madagascar, who topped their group ahead of Nigeria and then upset Democratic Republic of Congo on penalties in the last 16.

But Tunisia were dominant in Cairo, squandering chance after chance before Ferjani Sassi's scruffy strike broke Madagascar's resolve.

There was no sign of a response and instead captain Youssef Msakni soon added to Tunisia's advantage, his goal setting up a comfortable conclusion in which Naim Sliti added a late third ahead of Sunday's semi-final against Senegal.

In an open and entertaining start to the game, Sassi almost broke the deadlock in superb fashion, twisting into space on the edge of the area and firing just over the top.

But further chances did not follow for either side until Wahbi Khazri saw a curling 32nd-minute free-kick touched onto the crossbar by Melvin Adrien.

Tunisia thought they had their breakthrough in the opening minute of the second half, but Khazri strayed offside before controlling Yassine Meriah's lofted pass and scuffing into the net.

They did not have to wait long, though, as Sassi again went for goal from 20 yards and this time benefited from a huge deflection off Thomas Fontaine to wrongfoot the goalkeeper.

Msakni then picked out the bottom-left corner to double Tunisia's lead after Adrien denied Khazri once more, with the victors cruising long before substitute Sliti finished off a 93rd-minute counter to complete the scoring.

Africa Cup of Nations debutants Madagascar are not a team Tunisia should take lightly in the quarter-finals, according to Naim Sliti.

The Eagles of Carthage, who won the continental competition for the only time in 2004, have made it to the last eight without winning a game outright - their victory over Ghana in the last 16 only came via a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.

Tunisia's reward for eliminating one of the tournament heavyweights is a last-eight tie against surprise package Madagascar, which they are strong favourites to win.

But attacking midfielder Sliti insisted there is still plenty of room for improvement and he is not taking anything for granted.

"I think we reacted against Ghana after the poor group matches we played," he told Goal. "I knew we were going to bounce back. 

"We have to continue like that. We must not be carried away by this victory. It was difficult. We need to fix our mistakes, like what happened when we were leading Ghana 1-0. 

"We were playing too much at the back. You must not do that. We will continue with our preparation. There is a huge game ahead. By God's grace it shall be fine."

Madagascar have defied the odds to make it this far in the competition, having defeated Democratic Republic of Congo on penalties in the last 16 after toppling a much-fancied Nigeria to finish first in Group B.

And with opponents Tunisia yet to impress in Egypt, Anicet Abel is confident Madagascar can prolong their dream run and possibly lift the cup.

"We are happy with the victory over DR Congo and it shows that we are capable of winning the Africa Cup of Nations," he said.

"Now that we have scaled the Congolese hurdle, we will work very hard for our next game. With our players and great staff, we'll do everything to go as far as we can."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Madagascar - Lalaina Nomenjanahary 

Madagascar have scored seven goals in their four matches in Egypt and Nomenjanahary has played a direct role in two of their four most-recent efforts, netting one and setting up another.

Tunisia - Wahbi Khazri

Saint-Etienne winger Khazri failed to make a telling impact against Mauritania or Ghana, but he has scored two of Tunisia's last four goals in the Africa Cup of Nations.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Madagascar are the first team to reach the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in their first participation since Cape Verde in 2013.
- Tunisia will play the their 10th AFCON quarter-final. They have failed to advance in their past five appearances at this stage.

Madagascar's dream debut at the Africa Cup of Nations continued with a penalty shoot-out victory over Democratic Republic of Congo in Sunday's last-16 tie following a dramatic 2-2 draw in Alexandria.

Madagascar had defied all expectations by overcoming Nigeria on their way to top Group B and, despite the cruel blow of being pegged back in the 90th minute, they prevailed against opponents ranked 59 places above them in the FIFA rankings.

Faneva Andriatsima put the underdogs 2-1 in front with 13 minutes to play after Cedric Bakambu had cancelled out Ibrahim Amada's stunning early opener.

Chancel Mbemba redeemed himself for a couple of earlier misses with a late equaliser, but Madagascar came out on top in the shoot-out after neither side scored again in extra time, Marcel Tisserand and Yannick Bolasie both blasting over. 

Madagascar might be known more for a trilogy of animated films than football, but the script will continue to change if another famous victory is secured at the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.

The tournament newcomers are set to make their knockout rounds debut in a surprise last-16 date with Democratic Republic of Congo in Alexandria, Egypt.

It has the potential to be another milestone moment amid a dream sequence for Madagascar, who drew with Guinea, beat Burundi and then stunned Nigeria 2-0 to advance as Group B winners.

Anicet Andrianantenaina, scorer of his nation's maiden AFCON goal two weeks ago, put the unexpected run of results into perspective.

"No one knows about us, maybe only [from] the movie Madagascar," the Ludogorets player told CAF Online.

"Our secret is the team work. We play as a team and we fight for each other. There is no star in the team and everyone is equal."

Andrianantenaina will have to shoulder greater responsibility with fellow midfielder Marco Ilaimaharitra out through suspension.

Their opponents, DR Congo, are ahead by 59 places in the FIFA rankings but only scraped through Group A in third place, courtesy of a victory over Zimbabwe.

Though momentum is with his team, Belgium-based Ilaimaharitra admits any further progress is a bonus.

"I would be lying if I said we will be here up to the final," he said.

"But all I can say is that we will do our best in every game. We will do our best to win and see how far we can go."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Madagascar – Lalaina Nomenjanahary

Experience is required to guide Madagascar through uncharted territory and winger Nomenjanahary is rich with exactly that quality. The 33-year-old former Lens man has started each of Madagascar's matches at the tournament and netted the opener against Nigeria. Now at Ligue 2 outfit Paris FC, he has the ability and knowhow to create problems in wide areas.

DR Congo – Marcel Tisserand

Enviable firepower in attack will not be enough for DR Congo if their back four wilts under the pressure of a do-or-die contest. That places particular focus on centre-back Tisserand, who is yet to miss a minute of the tournament. A player with Ligue 1 and Bundesliga experience should be confident enough to commandeer a defence that shipped four goals in the opening two games.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Madagascar (W2 D1) could become the first team to go unbeaten in their first four Africa Cup of Nations matches since Libya in 1982 (5 – W2 D3).

- DR Congo have won four of their past 10 games at the Africa Cup of Nations (D2 L4), after winning two of the previous 22 (D11 L9).

- Charles Andriamahitsinoro has been involved in three of Madagascar's five goals (2 goals, 1 assist).

- Four of DR Congo's last six goals at the Africa Cup of Nations have been scored from set pieces situations.

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