Captain Faneva Andriatsima hails Madagascar football revolution ahead of Afcon debut

The Indian Ocean islanders sealed qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals with two games to spare.

Madagascar captain and Clermont Foot forward Faneva Imà Andriatsima feels it is now time that the world starts taking his country a bit more seriously after their maiden Afcon qualification.

The Indian Ocean islanders will be making their debut appearance at the 2019 Afcon finals after sealing qualification with two games to still to spare.

Before Madagascar-little known even in African football started the qualifiers, a prominent animated movie titled "Madagascar" was the major thing that connected the country's name to the entire world.

But Barea shocked the world with a brave performance that saw them frustrate giants like Senegal, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea to book a place at the 2019 Afcon finals.

"Of course many people knew Madagascar from this kids' film," Andriatsima told BBC Sport.

"I think all Malagasy people are aware of it, though most of the animals in the movie don't actually exist in Madagascar - we don't have any zebras or lions! It was nice that people got to know Madagascar but it is a shame that it is through a fictional movie and not through a real-life achievement.

"Now, we hope that can change. I believe everybody will now know that there is also football in Madagascar."

The Afcon qualification has attracted a number of France-born players like Lyon's Jeremy Morel who have pledged international allegiance to Madagascar.

With a number of France-based stars having committed themselves to the team, Andriatsima is already dreaming big, setting set sight on progressing past the group stage at the tournament whose hosts are yet to be known.

"What I know is that Madagascar will go into the competition with no pressure or stress," Andriatsima said.

"But we are not there just to compete, we want to try to get past the group stage - that is very important for us This should be the minimum aim. We have seven months to prepare and I can promise we will be ready."

After years in the backyard of African football, Madagascar have established themselves into an outfit that can pose a serious threat to big teams.

Thanks to what former Nantes, Sochaux and Le Havre striker Andriatsima terms a football revolution, the dream continues to grow big for the team that is already relishing for another Afcon appearance at the 2021 edition.

"We have needed a revolution in football in Madagascar for a long time. For 60 years since we gained independence we haven't achieved anything or won anything," said Andriatsima.

"Now we have shaken things up, but more needs to be done in the country to develop football. This qualification should just be the beginning. I hope we can be present in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations too and I truly believe we can do many great things in Madagascar."